Could Houston Rockets sale precede NHL expansion, relocation to Toyota Center?

The Carolina Hurricanes could be on the verge of being sold, the Arizona Coyotes are quieting speculation of a relocation, and now there's more reason to discuss movement among teams in the NHL.

With Houston Rockets owner Leslie Alexander announcing intentions to sell his NBA franchise, Houston's downtown Toyota Center could eventually become available. And that's an arena that, for years, has been touted as an ideal landing spot for an NHL franchise.

The Houston Press reported Friday that there is no indication that any NHL and Toyota Center pairing is imminent but suggested "discussions could soon begin again" thanks to the arena's long-discussed popularity in hockey circles. Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs, for example, told ESPN in 2015 that he'd love to put a team in the arena.

Toyota Center's market and accessibility, the Press noted, could once again make it the center of discussions to bring the NHL to Houston.

Alexander's selling the Rockets (and the lease that goes with it) opens up an NHL-ready hockey arena in Houston. And that's something that Seattle, which the NHL seemed to favor, can't offer, and, unlike Quebec City, Houston offers up a huge media market with many, many large corporations around to buy up luxury seats.  

There are plenty of hoops to jump through for Houston to host the NHL, including whether or not the future owner of the Rockets would be willing to negotiate with a prospective hockey team for use of the arena. And that's just the start of what would assuredly be a long process.

The idea itself, however, is intriguing, to say the least. It's not often, as the Press mentioned, that an NHL-ready arena simply becomes available, let alone during a time when the league is imbalanced after an expansion team's arrival and another team (see: Coyotes) has uncertainty about long-term arena plans.

It's far too early to expect the arrival of a Houston Coyotes franchise -- or an upstart 32nd team to follow the Vegas Golden Knights -- by 2018-19 or perhaps even the year after, but Alexander's soon-to-be loosened grip of the Rockets and Toyota Center, at the very least, opens doors for some monumental changes in the NHL.

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