It's official: The NHL will have a 31st team starting with the 2017-18 season.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced on Wednesday afternoon that the league will be expanding and the newest team is going to be in Las Vegas, making it the first professional sports team into the market.
The Las Vegas team will be owned by Bill Foley and comes with an expansion fee of $500 million dollars.
"In the fall of 2017, when we celebrate the 100th birthday of the NHL, we will do so as a League of 31 teams," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement on Wednesday afternoon.
"We are pleased to welcome Bill Foley and the city of Las Vegas to the League and are truly excited that an NHL franchise will be the first major professional sports team in this vibrant, growing, global destination city."
Bettman said the NHL board of governors gave expansion its unanimous support. It only needed three quarters support to pass.
This will be the first time the NHL has expanded since 1997 when it introduced four additional teams (Columbus, Minnesota, Nashville and Atlanta -- now the Winnipeg Jets) over a three year stretch.
The new Las Vegas team will play its home games at the newly opened T Mobile arena, a state-of-the-art venue with a hockey capacity of 17,368. The team already has 14,000 season ticket holders. Foley said he expects the building to be full every night, especially after the first year or two when they demonstrate a winning attitude, and that 85 to 90 percent of the crowd will be season ticket holders.
Here is everything else you need to know about the expansion process and the league's decision to expand.
1. Las Vegas gets its team while Quebec City has to wait. Along with the announcement that the league is expanding to Las Vegas, Bettman also announced that Quebec City's bid for a team has been deferred. Bettman cited the value of the Canadian dollar, as well as the fact that there is already a geographic imbalance between the Eastern and Western Conferences as the primary reason for holding off on Quebec City for the time being.
The Las Vegas team will play in the NHL's Pacific Division along with the Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers, and Calgary Flames.
Along with the expansion announcement and how it impacts Las Vegas and Quebec City, Bettman also announced on Wednesday that no current NHL teams are planning on relocating.
2. The Las Vegas team still does not have a name. We know the team will exist, where it will play, and when it will begin. What we don't know is what it will be called. There has been speculation that the Black Knights is one of the options because Foley is a big Army guy. So big, in fact, that he concluded his statement at the introductory press conference on Wednesday by saying "Beat Navy."
3. Here are the expansion draft rules. There has been a lot of speculation as to what the rules of the expansion draft will be, and now we know the official rules.
Every team in the NHL will lose at least one player, while Bettman said on Wednesday that he thinks the Las Vegas team will be an opportunity to add more talent than any recent expansion team. The expansion draft will take place on June 20, 2017. The team will be announced the following day.
Some of the key points for the expansion draft:
- Teams will have two options for who the players wish to protect: They can either protect seven forwards, three defenseman, and one goaltender; or eight skaters (any combination of forwards and defensemen) and one goaltender.
- There are also some requirements on the players that are exposed. Teams must expose one defenseman and two forwards that are under contract for 2017-18 and played in 40 or more games the previous season, or 70 or more games over the previous two seasons. They must also expose at least one goaltender that is either under contract for 2017-18 or will be a restricted free agent and has received a qualifying offer from the team.
- All players that have active no-trade clauses and no movement clauses in their contracts at the time of the expansion draft must be protected, provided they do not waive their clauses.
- All first and second year professionals, as well as unsigned draft picks, will be exempt from the expansion draft process and will not count toward the clubs applicable protection limits.
- Players with potential career-threatening injuries can not be used to satisfy a team's exposure requirement.
- The Las Vegas team must select 14 forwards, nine defenseman, and three goaltenders, while they are also "required to select players with an aggregate Expansion Draft value that is between 60-100% of the prior season's upper limit for the salary cap."
4. Las Vegas will have a small chance at the first pick in the 2017 draft. Las Vegas will make its first NHL draft pick as part of the 2017 draft and it will be placed into the draft lottery with the same odds as the team that finishes with the third worst record in the league in 2016-17. That is an 11.5 percent chance.
5. There is no hockey operations staff in place yet. When it comes to the expansion draft rules and Las Vegas' spot in the 2017 NHL draft we know how the team will be assembled. But at this point we do not know who will be in charge of actually building the team because Foley has yet to hire a hockey operations department.
There is apparently a lot of interest in the position.