The NHL made the rumors of a 31st franchise in the Nevada desert a reality today. In an announcement ahead of the NHL Awards ceremony in Las Vegas, commissioner Gary Bettman made it official: Las Vegas will be joining the NHL in 2017-18.
At a press conference at the ballroom of the Encore at Wynn Las Vegas, Bettman announced that the league will be the first of the four major North American sports leagues to put a team in Vegas. The Board of Governors approved the expansion in a vote during their meetings early Wednesday.
The NHL will receive a $500 million expansion fee which “will be distributed equally among the existing 30 franchises” according to an article by Dan Rosen on NHL.com.
Rosen’s article also noted that the Board of Governors “voted to defer the application for an expansion team from Quebecor Inc., which maintains the goal of bringing NHL hockey back to Quebec City.” He says that the league still sees Quebec as an option for a future NHL franchise. However, as pointed out in the last post I made about the subject, there were three factors keeping Quebec from getting a team right away: the NHL’s geographic imbalance, “the difficulty of bringing two new teams in at the same time,” and the struggle of the Canadian dollar (which, as Rosen notes “was trading at 78 cents on the US dollar on Tuesday”).
As noted, Bill Foley’s Las Vegas team will play in the brand new T-Mobile Arena, which Rosen says is located “just west” of the Las Vegas Strip. It has a hockey capacity of 17,368. The as yet unnamed team (although owner Foley has expressed an interest in the name “Black Knights” as a tribute to West Point athletics, his alma mater) will play in the Pacific Division when they come into the league.
There have been 14,000 season ticket deposits made and all of the luxury suites have been sold “since Foley launched a season ticket drive 16 months ago” according to Rosen.
With all of this comes the task of building the Las Vegas team and there will be an expansion draft set for next summer.
The rules will see the Las Vegas team select one player from each of the current NHL teams equaling out to 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goalies.
Rosen notes that “it must select a minimum of 20 players who have existing contracts that carry through the 2017-18 season and the average annual value of the contracts it takes on must be at least 60 percent of the 2016-17 season salary-cap limit, which is $73 million.”
The Vegas team cannot buy out of any of these contracts until summer 2018.
As for protecting players, the 30 existing clubs can “protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie, or eight skaters regardless of position and one goalie.”
Other notes from Rosen include: a player with a “no movement” clause in their contract at the time of the expansion draft “must be protected and will count towards their team’s protection limits unless the player agrees to waive his no-movement clause.” Teams must submit their protection lists by 5 PM ET on June 17, 2017. Las Vegas will submit their picks by 5 PM ET on June 20. Results will become public on June 21, 2017.
Furthermore, all skaters “exposed for the draft must be under contract for the 2017-18 season. Teams must expose a minimum of one defenseman and two forwards who played 40 or more games in 2016-17 season or 70 or more games in the previous two seasons.” Goalies also have to be under contract for 2017-18 or be scheduled to become a restricted free agent in summer 2017. Rosen notes: “In order to expose a goalie entering RFA status, the team must extend him his qualifying offer before submitting its protection list.”
First and second year pros will not be a part of the expansion draft and will not need to be protected by their teams.
As for the NHL Entry Draft in 2017, Vegas will go into the “Draft Lottery with the same odds as the team that finishes with the third fewest points in the 2016-17 season.” It will pick no lower than number six and will own the third pick in each round thereafter.
That is a lot to digest, but either way, welcome to the Las Vegas NHL entry!