NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said the league is continuing to evaluate the options for expansion at his 2016 NHL All-Star Game press conference Saturday.
He explained that the league’s executive committee met two weeks ago to discuss the issue, and will make a recommendation in the next few months.
“We’re going through an orderly process, this is a very important decision,” said Bettman. “Lots of things have to be evaluated and considered.”
Quebec City, Las Vegas and Seattle have all been rumoured at various times to be on the league’s radar as potential markets, though Quebec and Vegas Las Vegas were the only two cities to make a bid for a team over the summer.
Bettman told reporters that there were a lot of factors that decide whether or not a new franchise is feasible in a new market, from prospective arenas, to potential fan support, to the size of the market. The executive committee will be looking at all of them, though “impact on the league is probably the most important.”
When the committee is ready to make a recommendation, the league is willing to consider adding one, two, or no teams to the fold.
The decline of the Canadian dollar has raised questions over whether Quebec City can support a new franchise, but according to Bettman, it hasn’t had much of an impact on the league’s outlook.
“I don’t think anything in that regard has changed the process.”
Seattle, as a West Coast city, would help the league balance its conferences, and is the 15th largest metropolitan area in the Unites States. Bettman called the market intriguing last week, but that right now the league is only looking at its two actual applicants.
“Frankly if someone wanted to give us an application right now we wouldn’t take it.”
If the league does expand it would need at least a year in order for for teams to prepare for an expansion draft. Bettman has said that the new franchises could debut in the 2017-18 season, but that he has no reservations with regards to pushing the timeline further in the future.
“If we don’t make 2017-18 we don’t make 2017-18,” he said. “We’re not running a 60-second game here where the clock runs out.”