The new owner of the Houston Rockets met with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman recently, according to a report from Katie Strang of The Athletic. Tilman Fertitta, who purchased the Rockets this summer for $2.2 billion, had previously suggested he’d be interested in bringing the NHL to Houston. One meeting doesn’t prove that anything is set to happen, but it does have to throw Houston into the ring for potential expansion or relocation in the future. Bettman did admit to The Athletic that they would have to consider Houston if there was interest “under the right circumstances.”
There are several teams around the league with uncertain futures, most notably in Calgary, Arizona and New York (Islanders), and now two US locations that seem like legitimate new possibilities. Seattle, with its new arena proposal headed by Oak View Group, and now Houston with interest from an owner who is more than financially capable. While many Canadian hockey fans wish that Quebec City was first on the list, they may remain in the NHL’s back pocket even longer if viable locations are popping up in the United States. There is no clear path for expansion right now, nor is the league actively looking for relocation at the moment.
- Buffalo’s season is getting even worse with the announcement that Taylor Fedun and Matt Tennyson have been put on injured reserve today. An already thin blueline gets even thinner, and head coach Phil Housley announced that Fedun would be out six to eight weeks with a lower-body injury. In the meantime the team has recalled Casey Nelson because Zach Redmond is also nursing an injury in the minor leagues. The Sabres need defensive help even when all of their starters are healthy, and risk falling out of the playoff race altogether if they don’t find an answer on the back end.
- Auston Matthews is out once again for the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight, despite practicing for much of the week. The 20-year old superstar hasn’t played in ten days, though the team is 3-0 in his absence. Nikita Soshnikov will enter the lineup in his absence, though it likely means Patrick Marleau will regain his position at center ice. Marleau has been a winger for the last several years, but was forced into the center role in Toronto due to their lack of depth behind Matthews. Beyond the NHL, the Maple Leafs don’t have a ton of other options down the middle, a concern that could lead to some interesting decisions this summer. Tyler Bozak is a pending unrestricted free agent, but could be too expensive to bring back on anything other than a short-term deal. The team may have to look elsewhere to fill the third-line center role next year.