Report: NHL exploring Houston for expansion to 32 'not impossible to see'

There was speculation about another NHL expansion long before the NBA's Houston Rockets were sold for $2.2 billion in September, as well as about a potential franchise relocation to the Rockets' Toyota Center.

And while NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said on a recent Fox Sports pregame show that securing another expansion team isn't among the league's pressing priorities, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman suggests there is reason for that speculation to continue.

Outlining the possibility of an NHL presence in Houston for his "31 Thoughts" column, Friedman said "there is zero chance Bettman is not paying attention" to new Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta, who has made it clear he would "love to bring an NHL team here:"

Considering Vegas just dropped the puck, I could see it being true. But (there's always a but), when someone drops $2.2 billion on the NBA's Houston Rockets and says, "Yeah, I'm interested in the NHL," there is zero chance Bettman is not paying attention.

Remember, when the AHL left the city, it wasn't because parent-club Minnesota didn't like it there. Then-NBA owner Les Alexander jacked up the rent on the arena because he could make more money with other events. Houston's got a good hockey history. It's the fourth-largest TV market in the United States. The new boss, Tilman Fertitta, oozes cash. It would fit in the one remaining seven-team division. It's not impossible to see.

Friedman has a point about Vegas. The Golden Knights aren't exactly wallowing in incompetence like standard expansion teams, so there shouldn't necessarily be a rush to push the NHL to 32 teams. Then again, why not strike when the iron is hot? As Friedman notes, it also wouldn't hurt the balance of the league's divisional format.

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