NHL to Seattle: What to know about the expansion approval for the league's 32nd franchise
The league officially awarded a 32nd franchise to Seattle via unanimous decision on Tuesday
The NHL voted unanimously in favor of expansion at the league's Board of Governors meeting in Georgia on Tuesday, officially green-lighting a 32nd franchise in Seattle.
The nine-member executive committee heard Seattle's presentation in October before voting unanimously to move the matter to the full board, then unanimously approving the expansion on Tuesday. Three-quarters of the league's current 31 owners needed to vote positively for the vote to officially pass.
The expansion to Seattle comes two years after the league's Board of Governors unanimously approved adding a 31st franchise in Las Vegas. The Vegas Golden Knights played their inaugural season in 2017-2018 and were a smash success both on and off the ice. Not only did the team draw well and generate a ton of buzz in the Vegas market, the Golden Knights also made the Stanley Cup Final in their first season.
Here's a primer for what you need to know about the NHL's 32nd franchise in Seattle.
Who will own the team?
An ownership group called the Seattle Hockey Partners is behind the city's bid for a team. That group is led by by billionaire businessman David Bonderman, who would serve as majority owner, as well as movie/television producer Jerry Bruckheimer and Tod Leiweke, who has served in major sports executive roles for nearly two decades. Leiweke will serve as the team's president and CEO. The Seattle Hockey Partners group will pay NHL owners $650 million to join the league.
When will they begin play?
Seattle's franchise will join the league starting with the 2021-22 season. The ownership group was hoping to begin play in 2020, but setbacks in arena construction will push their plans back a year.
Where will they play?
The team will play at KeyArena, which famously served as the home of the Seattle Supersonics from 1967 to 2008, or at least a sexier version of it. Seattle approved a $700 million renovation of the arena, which will be almost entirely gutted (with the roof remaining untouched) to build a modern arena. The new building will have a capacity of 17,400 for hockey and 18,600 for basketball.
How much interest is there?
Quite a lot. Seattle has the Mariners, Seahawks, Sounders, Storm and Reign, but they've been hungry for another major professional sports franchise since the SuperSonics left town in 2008. The season ticket drive for the Seattle NHL franchise hit 10,000 deposits (the ownership group's initial goal) in just 12 minutes and over 25,000 in the first day.
For reference, when the Vegas Golden Knights ownership group held their season-ticket drive, it took them two days to reach 5,000 deposits, and two months to reach 9,000. The Seattle group surpassed that in less than 15 minutes.
What will they be called?
Details regarding the team's name, logo, color scheme are not known yet, and there will be plenty of time for those rumors and announcements over the next couple of years. However, it's never too early to start. In regards to a potential name, the leader in the clubhouse seems to be the Metropolitans at this point in time.
In April of last year, the NHL acquired the trademark rights to "Seattle Metropolitans" in Canada. (The U.S. rights are currently owned by a Korean-American entrepreneur and hockey fan named Paul Kim.) That doesn't make it a certainty, but it's worth noting.
How will they build the roster?
Under the NHL's current Expansion Draft format, the Seattle club will get to select one unprotected player from all NHL teams other than the Golden Knights, who are exempt given their recent Expansion status.
Here's how the Expansion Draft requirements break down, per NHL.com:
- Must select the following number of players at each position: 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goaltenders.
- Must select a minimum of 20 players who are under contract for the upcoming season.
- Must select players with an aggregate value that is between 60-100% of the prior season's upper limit for the salary cap.
- May not buy out any of the players selected in the Expansion Draft earlier than the summer following its first season.
Regarding the protection lists for the 31 established teams...they can either protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender, or eight skaters (forwards/defensemen) and one goaltender. All players with "no movement" clauses must be protected (unless they agree to waive the clause) and will count towards the protection list, while all first-year and second-year players will automatically be exempt, as will unsigned draft picks.
As we saw during the Expansion Draft for the Vegas Golden Knights, the drafting team can work out trades during draft day, potentially agreeing to select (or not select) certain players in exchange for additional assets, such as draft picks or young players.
How will the league re-align?
With Seattle giving the NHL an even 32 teams, there will be 16 teams in each conference. Assuming the league plans to keep its current divisional structure, Seattle will join the Pacific division while the Arizona Coyotes will move to the Central division.
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