Is the NHL getting closer to putting a team in Vegas?

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TSN’s Bob McKenzie has the hockey world buzzing about Las Vegas after uttering the following last night on TV:

There are no formal plans for expansion but if they expand and everyone assumes at some point, they’re going to, the common knowledge is that Seattle is the primary target in the Pacific Northwest. The strong sense I’m getting now is that Las Vegas is second on that list behind Seattle and the NHL wants to be the first major professional sports league to put a franchise in Las Vegas. People in Quebec City may be saying, ‘Hey, what about us?’ Well, keep in mind, there’s no rule that says if they expand, that they only expand by two teams. The possibility of expanding by three teams, with Quebec City being one of them, is at least something that will be considered. There’s lots of money in expansion; over $300 million per franchise, close to a $1 billion windfall that isn’t shared with the players or anyone else, just the owners.

We’ve written about the potential of Las Vegas as an NHL market before. In June, it was announced that AEG and MGM Resorts International had teamed up to build a 20,000-seat arena near the city’s famous Strip. As of November, construction was slated to start in April of 2014, with the arena opening in early 2016.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has touted Las Vegas as a potential major-league market in the past.

“Some league will be here,” Bettman said back in 2009. “Somebody’s going to be first, but the stadium/arena issues, I think until they resolve, will preclude any serious consideration.”

Expanding to Seattle and Las Vegas would also bring the Western Conference up to 16 teams, the same as the current Eastern Conference, while allowing teams like Detroit and Columbus to remain in the East.

Related:

Bettman mum on expansion, but Quebec City makes too much sense

Report: Maloofs met with Bettman about buying an NHL team