NHL executive committee meets on critical day for expansion

Matt Murray continued his miraculous run with another solid performance shutting down the Sharks.

June 7 marked a significant step towards the National Hockey League’s official decision on expansion.

The nine members of the league’s executive committee, chaired by Jeremy Jacobs of the Boston Bruins, met Tuesday in New York City. Owners of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Chicago Blackhawks, Minnesota Wild, Tampa Bay Lightning, Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, Washington Capitals, and Carolina Hurricanes round out the committee.

This meeting will result in a recommendation on expansion.

That league has publicly stated that the committee will recommend one of three options:

1.) No expansion
2.) Deferred expansion
3.) Expansion for 2017-18 (one team or two)

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has said the NHL’s 30-member Board of Governors will then take that recommendation and vote on it during their next meeting on June 22 in Las Vegas. The board’s vote will be league’s final ruling.

Twenty-four votes are needed to approve the recommendation.

June 22 is also the date of the NHL Awards in — wait for it — Las Vegas, which will make for either (a) one heck of a party or (b) plenty of awkward glances.

So where do the two applications stand?

Las Vegas: Billionaire businessman Bill Foley has a favourable lease on the brand-new T-Mobile Arena, just west of the Vegas Strip, and 14,000 deposits on season tickets. He also has tentative plans for the prospective club’s practice facility in Summerlin.

Foley has said that he has had to exercise patience and silence while he anxiously awaits the NHL’s decision.

“We’re seeing all this enthusiasm for a team we still don’t have,” Foley said in a rare interview in February.

If the executive committee recommends Las Vegas expansion, the league and Foley will have two weeks to review and sign the legal documents before the board’s vote.

Quebec City: “Absolutely there’s a chance there’s two teams,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told Hockey Central last week. Quebec, Daly said, has all three features the NHL’s desires in a new market: demographics, quality of ownership, and arena facility.

Some factors could hinder Quebecor’s bid, however: the NHL’s geographic balance (i.e., do they want 17 teams in the East and only 14 or 15 in the West?), the weakened Canadian dollar, and the board’s overall appetite for expansion to two teams.

Former Canadian prime minister and chairman of Quebecor’s board of directors Brian Mulroney said he still believes Quebec City will acquire an NHL franchise, just not in the short-term.

So, the league could approve Vegas for 2017 and Quebec for 2018, giving the loonie another year to recover. Or…

The wildcard: The league has dismissed rumblings in Carolina that the Hurricanes are in dire financial straits and that owner Peter Karmanos Jr.’s team could be relocated.

Karmanos’s club — for which he has been trying to find a new majority owner who will keep the team in Carolina — ranks last in attendance, is struggling on the ice, and now he’s facing a lawsuit from his sons.

“I view the public litigation to be more along the lines of a family squabble than anything that would raise material concern for the league in and of itself,” Daly said. “You have to understand the entire situation, and we’re obviously, on the whole, comfortable with the entire situation of what’s going on in Carolina.”

Karmanos has no desire to relocate to Quebec, but should the Hurricanes acquire a new majority owner, things might change in the future.

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