It seems like NHL Expansion: Round Two is in full swing. After Commissioner Gary Bettman spent considerable time discussing the prospect of expansion yesterday, a report from NHL.com’s Dan Rosen suggests that the potential Seattle ownership group is nearing completion of it’s application. Unlike the most recent expansion process, during which the NHL had an open bidding window and multiple applications were considered, the Seattle group was granted an exclusive expansion application review back on December 7th. Now, it seems group leaders David Bonderman and Jerry Bruckheimer are closing in on being the league’s newest expansion selection.
The exact timeline for expansion remains somewhat unclear, but Bettman acknowledged that the league and the Seattle group are in constant communication, stating “we’re getting the information on a timely basis, whatever that timetable is, so we can go through the processes that we have to.” Bettman also recently met with Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan in person, who herself is a major proponent of the NHL in Seattle, to discuss the prospects of expansion. The process seems to be moving along at a nice clip, and although the Seattle group will likely need additional time to run a season ticket drive and of course to collect the $650MM expansion fee, the application could be completed in no time.
What we do know for sure, especially given the NHL’s excitement about Seattle, the increased expansion fee, and the success of the Vegas Golden Knights, is that the Expansion Draft structure will not be changing. The Seattle group will expect the same set of rules that helped create the Western Conference-leading Knights and no one can blame them. Back in June, the then-existing 30 other NHL teams were allowed to protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie (or eight skaters regardless of position and one goalie) from being selected in the expansion draft. Side deals could be – and were – made to help protect players that didn’t fit in nicely to a team’s protection plan. Nevertheless, Vegas still ended up with All-Stars Marc-Andre Fleury and James Neal, exciting young scorers Jon Marchessault, William Karlsson, Erik Haula, and Alex Tuch, and a plethora of valuable draft picks. Seattle will want a chance to take the same caliber of player and add another instantly-competitive club into the NHL’s ranks. With the next round of expansion likely set for 2020, teams may have to begin thinking already about the Expansion Draft repercussions of any upcoming trades and free agent signings.