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November 12, 2014 | 3:50pm ET
Spoiler alert
 David Pagnotta offers the latest surrounding the noise of expansion in the NHL.

TORONTO, ON -- A few weeks ago, I wrote about how the NHL Premiere Series was going to be returning, either next season or in 2016-17, and then I went off on a little tangent about NHL expansion.

At the time, it seemed like Quebec City was the front runner for an expansion franchise, in terms of having an arena ready for next fall and an ownership group itching to get their claws on a team.

Las Vegas and Seattle, in that order, followed.

 

Nothing has really changed. Those three markets are still on track for getting an NHL franchise.

Except, it's all or nothing. (Spoiler: It's happening)

The NHL wants two new teams in the Western Conference. That's a given. Seattle was No.1 on the list, but (as I wrote about on Oct. 25), their arena issues are a bit of a pain, right now.

Long story short: Chris Hansen, who has the rights to build a new sports arena in Seattle, went in with the NBA-first mentality and sold the city on that idea. Now that it looks like the NBA isn't coming to the city any time soon, the framework (who's paying for what) for an arena has to be restructured under an NHL-first plan.

The NHL wants to be in Seattle. Seattle wants an NHL team... but they really, really, cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die-stick-a-needle-in-my-eye want an NBA team.

So, at some point, that will iron itself out. But for argument's sake, they're "third" on the list. Arena = team.

Back to Quebec, for a moment.

The fanbase has been screaming for an NHL team for years. They need one. They deserve one. They don't care where it comes from. They don't care who tells them it won't be Florida. Or Carolina. Or Arizona. They want a team.

As much as it may seem ridiculously unbelievable to believe, the NHL is not relocating a franchise to Quebec City. There's a really good chance they aren't relocating a franchise anywhere.

Yes, the Panthers' attendance is embarrassing. We get it. They're (slowly) trying to remedy that situation. But, again, they're not moving. And there are other factors involved than simply the hockey team. Get over it.

If anyone's moving, it's the Coyotes, and it would appear only to a western market.

But with a new ownership group selling their majority stake to another new ownership group (and nobody really saw that coming, but it's a brilliant business move -- I mean, seriously, they bought the team for $170 million and are selling 51 per cent for $155 million. Who wouldn't do that?) I don't think that's in the cards.

Granted, the Coyotes are in a tough spot on the ice, and that will affect attendance, but they've made a crapload of gains with a new arena sponsor, some cool and unique promotional ideas, tailgating events, and much more.

Never say never. They look like they're on the right track, but they're, without a doubt, the X-factor in all of this expansion mumbo-jumbo.

So, Quebec, be more patienter patient. The wheels are in motion. Like I said, there's a catch. In order to get a team, two new teams have to be added to the West. (Spoiler: It's happening)

Which brings us back to Las Vegas.

The New York Post reported this morning that a group led by billionaire William Foley and the Maloof family has been chosen as the ownership group that will bring an NHL franchise to Sin City.

I'm not going to lie, I was a little surprised about that bit of information. And believe me, I'm not the only one. But at least it's another step towards E-X-P-A-N-S-I-O-N!

The reported franchise expansion fee is "about $400 million," according to the Post. That's a little lower than I expected, about $100 million lower, but it's nothing to shy away from.

The NHL wants to be in Vegas... as much as they want to be in Seattle, and as much as they'll take the money to be back in Quebec. I mean, they aren't going to say no to $1.2 billion to $1.5 million worth of expansion fees, especially when all that money goes to the owners.

Let me simplify things: Las Vegas and Quebec City are locks, according to a well-placed sourced. I can't guarantee this, because, you know, anything can happen, but... (Spoiler: It's happening)

Further to that, the location for 2015 NHL Awards is in limbo. The last two events (2012 and 2014) took place at the Wynn Las Vegas & Encore Resort, with no contract in place for 2015. This might have something to do with the league's expansion plans (MGM is building the arena, and the Maloofs own the Palms Casino Resort, where the Awards were held from 2009-2011), or it could simply mean their initial three-year contract didn't carry over when the lockout wiped out the 2013 Awards.

Don't expect to hear any announcements any time soon, though. There isn't going to be a press conference next month, or during All-Star Weekend, where Commissioner Gary Bettman is going to announce expansion to Las Vegas, and then announce expansion to Quebec City in the summer, and then expansion to Seattle next fall.

The NHL wants to get everything ironed out, all at once, before they announce anything.

Officially, and formally, nothing is finalized. There's still work to be done. But you've heard the spoiler alerts by now, haven't you?

The X-Factor

Alright, so with Quebec City and Las Vegas unofficially all set, what the hell's going on in Seattle?

Haven't you been reading? Okay, I meant aside from their arena woes...

Well, Arizona has a big impact on all of this expansion chatter. IF Andrew Barroway decides to flip the team in a few years and they're forced to relocate, where could they end up? Will it be Seattle? Will the NHL wait that long? What if Hansen and the city is prepared to move ahead with an NHL-first plan for their arena and the NHL already announces plans to move to the Emerald City?

This is where it gets weird.

Remember that town in Western Missouri? They've got that state-of-the-art arena with ties to the NHL? Yeah, them.

According two separate sources, the NHL is once again taking a hard and close look at Kansas City, either for expansion or relocation. They're covering their bases, and if the league expands to Las Vegas and Seattle, and ends up having to relocate the Coyotes, this could be their only option.

It's still
early, so let's not get too crazy about the whole thing, but the NHL is weighing its options.

What About Toronto 2.0?

Everyone in the NHL is very interested to see what ends up happening in Toronto. When will a second NHL franchise invade Maple Leafs territory?

Well, it doesn't sound like they're part of the plans, just yet. And I've been told by multiple people in/around the NHL and the Leafs that a second Toronto team would not play out of the Air Canada Centre. If a second team comes to Toronto, they'll need their own facility.

All that talk about an arena coming to Markham, a suburb of Toronto, made sense, in terms of housing a new NHL franchise, but it's far from happening... and it may never happen. But if a group is interested in coughing up the ridiculous expansion and territorial fees required to bring a second team to Toronto, they'll also have to probably pay for a new arena.

There are some whispers that Bell Media and Rogers could buyout the other's stake in the Maple Leafs and spearhead the group going up against the Buds, but that's questionable, at best, right now.

Bell, in fact, is taking a big stance in returning the Expos to Montreal. According to three separate sources (why is he talking about baseball now, what happened to hockey?), Bell will be a major player in a group willing to purchase the Tampa Bay Rays and move them to Montreal. With the money invested in such a buy, along with the money needed to go into a new stadium, Bell might not want to rid itself of the Leafs and dish out the cash for another Toronto NHL team. (The Rogers own the Blue Jays. Rivalry pukefest).

I'm sure we'll be hearing a lot more about all of this expansion talk soon enough.

We know what the Quebec City team will be called, so maybe we can brainstorm what the Las Vegas and Seattle teams should be named?

David Pagnotta is the Editor-in-Chief of The Fourth Period. Follow him on Twitter.

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