With rumours circulating that the NHL has completed a deal to expand to Las Vegas, TSN Hockey Insider Darren Dreger says although there is no formal agreement in place, expansion could be on the league's radar at some point down the road.
“There is no formal plan for expansion,” Dreger said while on TSN 1050 Monday morning. ”Saying that, would I be surprised if, at some point in the reasonably near future the league announced that it was jumping to 32 teams and they were bringing in the likes of Las Vegas at a certain time and Seattle at a certain time and Quebec City remains either an expansion opportunity, although you have an imbalance (between East and West) or a relocation possibility if necessary – no I wouldn't be surprised by any of that.”
Referencing a report by the Vancouver Province's Tony Gallagher, Dreger said he wouldn't go as far as saying something is finalized, but said Gary Bettman has always been open to having discussions about possible future NHL destinations.
“Separating what is news and fact from what is speculation is a difficult process because there is an acknowledgement from the National Hockey League that there is interest and they continue to talk about it,” Dreger said. “Las Vegas has always been on the periphery when we talk about expansion.”
“If the market is there and it's a viable market that can be healthy for the National Hockey League, then that's what it's all about – it's about the continued drive for revenue,” Dreger said in reference to Vegas, noting prominent film and TV producer Jerry Bruckheimer has quietly been campaigning behind the scenes for a team there for a long time.
Besides Las Vegas, Seattle and Quebec City are also thought to be potential destinations the NHL would consider, with Seattle being a potential frontrunner according to Dreger.
“If the people involved in the Seattle bid were okay with putting that building up and having the National Hockey League come in first as opposed to the NBA, I'm not so sure that process wouldn't be a lot closer to reality then it already is.
“I look at Seattle as being a better odds-on favourite than a second team in the Toronto area and potentially Las Vegas as well.”