Marc-Andre Fleury (Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman strongly hinted that we'll know whether or not the league intends to expand by the time the board of governors meets June 22 in Las Vegas
PITTSBURGH – The time is nigh, which means there won’t be too many more sleeps before we find out whether the NHL will expand to Sin City or Quebec City, or both, or neither, in time for the 2017-18 season.
In his pre-Stanley Cup final state of the union address, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said he expects the executive committee will make an expansion recommendation to the board of governors at least a week before it meets June 22. That takes us likely to June 15. Neither Bettman nor deputy commissioner Bill Daly would say when the executive committee will meet to decide expansion, but said it will be held in early June. There is speculation that meeting could take place as early as next week.
Bettman said there will be one of three scenarios by June 22 – no expansion, expansion to one of the two cities or expansion deferred to a later time. “I am not going to handicap what’s going to happen,” Bettman said, “but when the board meets in Las Vegas on June 22, I am fairly certain that we will know more than we do today.”
The general feeling is that the league will expand by one team and Los Vegas will be the winning entry. But it’s not exactly the slam-dunk that everyone thought it would be. There’s a lot of consternation over this one, both among the members of the all-powerful executive committee and among members of the board of governors. The executive committee had consisted of the league’s 10 most powerful owners, but that number has been reduced to nine with the death of Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider. Usually when the executive committee makes a recommendation on something, the board of governors usually rubber-stamps it, but Daly said this issue is a contentious one.
“I wouldn’t presuppose a board vote,” Daly said. “And I wouldn’t do that on this issue in particular. There is some difference in opinion among board members.”
If the league does expand, there’s still a lot to be worked out in terms of an expansion draft. The league outlined some of the criteria for which players can be exempt from being exposed, but that’s something of a moving target. Daly said first- and second-year pros would be exempt, but there is some confusion over whether players with no-move clauses would be exempt from being protected.
Daly said players with no-trade clauses could be exposed, but those with no-movement clauses would likely be exempt. But there are varying degrees of no-movement clauses. Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, for example, has a limited no-movement clause that does not allow him to be put on waivers. Does that qualify or would he be exposed?
Daly also said any expansion team would not automatically be guaranteed the first (or first and second if there are two teams) pick in the draft, but would be part of the lottery process. When asked whether an expansion team’s odds would be better than the team that finishes last overall, Daly declined to go into specifics. But it is clear that the league does not want another Atlanta Thrashers on its hands and aims to have the expansion team ice a competitive roster in its first season.