Got $500 million? NHL to begin ‘formal expansion review process’

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We all knew what Gary Bettman was going to say.

He was going to say that the NHL was going to formally start looking at expansion.

We also knew what he wasn’t going to say.

He wasn’t going to say that expansion is definitely going to happen. Nor was he going to handicap which markets had the best chance.

And that’s exactly what happened today in Las Vegas, where the commissioner held a press conference following a board of governors meeting. He confirmed that the “formal expansion review process” will begin July 6, with applications accepted no later than August 10.

In a statement, Bettman said: “Over the past several years we have received numerous expressions of interest from potential markets and ownership groups that have indicated an interest in joining the National Hockey League. The fact that we are beginning this process does not necessarily mean that any expansion teams will be granted as a result of this process.”

The earliest any new team will begin play is the 2016-17 season.

Among the factors that will be reviewed: the viability of the expansion market, the arena situation, the ownership, and the business plan.

Oh, and let’s not forget a willingness to pay. According to Bettman, there probably won’t be any “appetite” to expand if the fee doesn’t “start with a five.”

As in, $500 million.

Las Vegas is the consensus favorite to land a team. While some have questioned the market’s viability, there’s an arena under construction and a potential owner who’s already got around 13,000 season-ticket commitments. Sin City also has a geographic advantage, in that the NHL only has 14 teams in the Western Conference, compared to 16 in the East.

The geographic factor is why Seattle is, perhaps, the second favorite. The arena situation (i.e. there isn’t one yet) is what’s holding things back for that city.

Quebec City, Kansas City, Toronto (a second team, obviously), and Portland are other markets that have been raised in speculation throughout the years.

The difference now is that the NHL wants serious applications on the table.

Talk is cheap.

If you want a hockey team, it’s time to step up to the plate. 

Bring money.

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

Ilya Mikheyev
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.