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Insider Trading: Could next year's NHL Draft be at the Sphere?

Las Vegas Sphere Las Vegas Sphere - Getty Images

TSN Hockey Insiders Chris Johnston, Pierre LeBrun and Darren Dreger joined host James Duthie to discuss whether the Sphere in Las Vegas could host the 2024 NHL Draft, the latest on restricted free agent Shane Pinto and how close the league might be to expanding yet again.

Could the Sphere host the 2024 NHL Draft?

Las Vegas Sphere

Duthie: We’ve all seen the Sphere in Las Vegas. We know the NHL loves Vegas. Could there be an NHL Sphere tie in?

Johnston: It’s certainly something the league has explored and I think the reason we’re standing here in October and we don’t know where the June draft is because the league has looked at a lot of venues in Vegas. But I can confirm one of the ones they have considered is the Sphere. Probably the preeminent entertainment venue in the world now at a cost of $2.3 billion that’s just opening. And that’s one of the places I think the league would like to have the draft there ultimately in June. We’ll just have to see if they can get all the logistics taken care of to make it happen. 


What’s the latest on Pinto?

Ottawa Senators

Duthie: Jamie Drysdale signed a three-year contract with the Ducks following Trevor Zegras’ three-year deal, which leaves one prominent restricted free agent still unsigned. Does Shane Pinto’s contract with the Ottawa Senators get done before the season starts?

Johnston: Well, we’re in crunch time right now. And the Ottawa Senators are certainly here working on Shane Pinto, trying to get it done in advance of the season. And this is a really tough one. One thing that Shane Pinto shares with Jamie Drysdale is that he is two years from arbitration eligibility and that makes it difficult to value what could be a second year in a deal, makes a player less inclined to sign a one-year contract. I think that’s partly what slowed up the process in Anaheim. And, you know, where things get real here is on Tuesday. Because as of this coming Tuesday, that’s when players around the league will start being paid for their services. That’s when he would be first missing the ability to earn money. And of course, Wednesday is the opening of the Senators’ season. So they’re going to try to get it done ahead of that.


How close is the NHL to returning to the Olympics?

Duthie: IIHF meetings are currently happening in Portugal. Is there a deal close to send NHL players back to the Olympics?

Dreger: They’re inching closer and they’re continuing to work through the logistics. Everyone is still on board with NHL participation. Certainly the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association. But the IIHF does have to pony up some money here in covering some of the insurance costs. What about the travel costs for the players and their families? It’s expected that those discussions at the IIHF level will continue on Friday. The NHL and the NHLPA are eager to continue to push forward.

Duthie: And not just Olympic news out of those meetings?

Dreger: Interesting partnerships between USA Hockey, the NHL and the IIHF. Now, the United States is poised to host the under-18 men’s World Championship in 2025. This is a trial run as far as the NHL is concerned, the league doesn’t normally do these things. The hope is from a IIHF perspective that the NHL will continue to partner beyond 2025. What’s interesting is they expect to have testing pre-competition. That event would happen in April, so that event would be a nice tie-in to the NHL Draft.


Where do expansion efforts sit?

Gary Bettman

Duthie: We’ve been hearing the buzz about Atlanta possibly getting yet another chance at having an NHL team. Whether it’s Atlanta, Houston, Salt Lake, Quebec City… when is this likely to happen and is it almost a guarantee it’s going to happen at some point?

LeBrun: Yeah, for me it’s a matter of when and not if. You certainly got that sense from listening to Gary Bettman and looking at the body language of the NHL commissioner Wednesday at the Board of Governors meeting in New York. It felt like he came so close to just saying it’s going to happen but he said ‘no, we aren’t ready yet.’ But then he talked about the recurring interest in conversations between that he’s having with those four cities that you just mentioned, Atlanta, Houston, Salt Lake and Quebec City. He was also asked what the next expansion fee would look like. Remember, Seattle went for $650 million. He said ‘A lot,’ and he mentioned the recent valuation of some NHL franchises. Ottawa just sold for $950 million, so do the math. And finally, I traded text messages today with Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith, who you may remember he said a few months ago said he wants an NHL team. And he reiterated to me that he is ‘Super interested’ in getting an NHL team. So, options there for the league when they’re ready.

Duthie: Doesn’t the league have to figure out the whole Arizona situation first?

LeBrun: Yeah, there’s no question that this feels like a once and for all proposition for Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo to get some finality on whether he can fix the arena situation in Arizona. What Gary Bettman said Wednesday was that they hope to have some clarity in January or February and that they remain optimistic that Arizona could actually figure this out. We shall see. But as other governors told me Wednesday at the meeting, there’s no question you have to figure out Arizona first in case you have to move them to one of those cities that we just talked about. Especially whether that’s Houston or Salt Lake City.