NHL invites Seattle to apply for expansion team

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After word surfaced that Seattle is ramping up work on an NHL-ready (and NBA-ready) KeyArena, Gary Bettman decided to shed some light on the situation, while also acknowledging that he can’t control how much people will  “handicap” Seattle’s odds of actually landing a team.

Bettman announced that the NHL’s Board of Governors will allow Seattle to submit an expansion application, and only Seattle, so Quebec City’s dreams are – at best – put on hold for now.

The league’s commissioner emphasized that, while Seattle would be getting consideration, this is far from a guarantee that they’ll actually end up with a team when it’s all said and done.

Much like with Vegas’ quest to land a team, Bettman said that “in the next few months,” Seattle will be allowed to run a season-ticket drive to show how viable the market is as a money-maker. Actually, Bettman interestingly acknowledged how similar this process is (at least so far) to that which eventually created the Vegas Golden Knights.

He then added that the price is different and … boy is it ever.

In the case of the Golden Knights, the expansion price tag was $500 million. For a Seattle team? They’ll need to hand over a whopping $650 million, according to Bettman. So, the NHL could land $1.1 billion in expansion fees between two teams in a relatively short window of time. Interesting.

As far as the team coming via expansion or relocation is concerned, Bettman didn’t totally rule out Seattle’s team coming via a relocated franchise. That said, Bettman emphatically stated that the Hurricanes will not leave Carolina. (More on that in a future post tonight.)

[Karmanos says Hurricanes sale news could come soon.]

Bettman indicated that a Seattle team might launch by the 2020-21 season, which matches up with Seattle’s goals to have KeyArena ready to roll by October 2020. Of course, there’s the question of another lockout coming around that time, which …

/fails to contain whimpering and weeping

*ahem*

Anyway, that’s just one of several potential headaches in the process. It’s worth noting that Bettman saying nothing is guaranteed isn’t just lip service. Ownership and arena situations can get flighty, so the Seattle situation can take many twists and turns. If you’ve followed the grungy city’s arena exploits, you know that there have already been highs and lows during that process.

[You may recall an earlier Seattle announcement being derailed by scandal.]

Rather than foolishly dreaming of Sonics in the NHL, let’s focus on more straightforward-fun ideas, such as a Seattle – Vancouver rivalry, and the on-paper-and-in-our-imaginations perfect symmetry of having an NHL franchise in Seattle. It just makes too much sense not to work, right?

Right? Maybe?

Trevor Linden of the Canucks told The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun that they’d welcome a Seattle team and embrace the would-be rivalry, so that’s nice to hear.

Long story short, this seems like another very promising step in the right direction, but be careful about taking out that Jump to Conclusions mat just yet. Either way, PHT will keep you posted, whether this process ends up being smooth or full of swerves.

(Note: you can see a snippet of Bettman’s press conference in the video above this post’s headline, with most of his specific thoughts coming around the 50-second mark.)

For even more, check out Bob McKenzie’s segment on NBCSN from Wednesday:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.