It’s official: The NHL is going to Las Vegas


Las Vegas is getting its first major North American sports franchise as today NHL commissioner Gary Bettman officially announced the NHL unanimously voted to expand to 31 teams, giving birth to a great experiment and opportunity.

The challenges that this franchise potentially faces are unlike any other. Vegas is known for its entertainment and nightlife, providing this new team with hordes of competition for attention. That reality also leads to many Vegas residents working nights, which was reflected in the former ECHL’s Las Vegas Wranglers annual “Midnight Roundup” promotion, which was a game played at midnight.

The team might benefit from the constant stream of tourists, some which may even time their vacations to correspond with when their favorite team in visiting Vegas, but the NHL will be counting on the locals to provide the base of support.

Vegas’ metropolitan area is the home to more than 2 million people, but the desert city doesn’t have a major tradition of hockey. As Bettman noted though during Wednesday’s press conference, nontraditional markets have had success in other locations. Just this season two Florida teams led the Atlantic Division while three California teams finished atop the Pacific Division and of course the San Jose Sharks made it to the Stanley Cup Final.

The timing of this announcement also comes just before the 2016 NHL Entry Draft where the projected No. 1 pick is Auston Matthews, who was born in Arizona and exposed to the NHL through the Coyotes. He’s a symbol of how hockey entering nontraditional markets can spread interest in the sport.

“The NHL stands for the proposition that hockey is for everyone,” the new team’s owner, Bill Foley, added.

Vegas also has the potential to surprise people in part because the Vegas outsiders see isn’t the same as the experience of many residents.

“Most people don’t realize there’s life outside the Strip,” said Minnesota Wild forward Jason Zucker, per the National Post. He grew up in Vegas. “They come in, stay in the bubble that’s the Strip and they leave that bubble to go on a plane and go back to where they’re from.”

It’s also worth noting that Vegas is starting with 14,000 season-ticket holders.

“The strength of the Las Vegas bid, the success of the ticket drive and the unique appeal of the market led the executive committee and subsequently the board of governors to determine expansion not only is appropriate, but is important to the league’s continued growth and momentum,” Bettman said.

The league will receive a $500 million expansion fee. This marks the first time since 1997 that the NHL has added a brand new franchise. Las Vegas will start play in 2017-18, which corresponds with the league’s 100th birthday.


Related: Las Vegas ‘will be a great destination for people following their teams’

No indication that NHL will seek to ban betting on Vegas team

Report: Brian Campbell interested in returning to the ‘Hawks

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The Blackhawks might get some defensive help from a familiar source…well, if the price is right at least.

Brian Campbell, who is expected to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, “has serious interest” in playing for Chicago again, according to Chicago Tribune writer Chris Kuc’s sources.

The most obvious issue with that is Chicago’s cap situation. The Blackhawks had to bundle prospect Teuvo Teravainen along with Bryan Bickell to send the latter’s contract to Carolina, but even after doing that Chicago is in a delicate situation, in part depending on how much RFA Andrew Shaw goes for. To throw Campbell into that mix would be difficult to do.

And yet if they can pull it off, it would help bolster their defense. Campbell isn’t the offensive force he was when he recorded 52 points with Chicago back in 2008-09, but he can still contribute in that regard while filling a top-four role. He also hasn’t missed a game since his last stint with the Blackhawks ended back in 2011.

Campbell was traded in the first place because the Blackhawks needed to get out from under his eight-year deal worth roughly $57 million. The 37-year-old’s next contract will obviously be far more modest, but he should attract attention on the free agent market, especially seeing as there’s never a shortage of teams looking for puck-moving defensemen.

Milan Lucic plans to test free agent market

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There will be at least one big name forward up for grabs on July 1.

While we wait to see what will happen with Steven Stamkos and David Backes among others, Milan Lucic has informed Pierre LeBrun that he will be an unrestricted free agent. The Los Angeles Kings were interested in retaining his services, but it seems that the two ultimately couldn’t agree to terms, perhaps due in large part to the Kings’ tricky cap situation.

Regardless, this puts a 28-year-old forward that blends skill and grit and boasts plenty of playoff experience, including a Stanley Cup championship, into the field. It’s also an ideal time for him to test the market as he’s coming off of a strong 55-point season.

He will likely attract plenty of interest, but the Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks might be the favorites for his services. Signing with the Canucks would allow him to play for his hometown and he’s already said he’d listen if Vancouver is interested. As for the Oilers, they have his old general manager, Peter Chiarelli. Lucic would also be a nice fit for an Edmonton squad that’s not short on high-end skill, but could use more strength on its first or second line.

Lucic has said that going to a team that can win the Stanley Cup is important to him and neither of those franchises are close to that point. Both have promise though, so the question is if Lucic is willing to buy into either organization’s long-term strategy.

Related: UFA of the Day: Milan Lucic

Carey Price declares himself 100% healthy

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Carey Price has fully recovered from the MCL sprain that ended his season on Nov. 25, per an interview that the goaltender had with TSN’s Gino Reda.

That sets the stage for what could be a comeback season of sorts for the Montreal Canadiens. Price stood above the pack in 2014-15 and won the both the Vezina and Hart Trophy, among other hardware, in acknowledgment of his superb campaign. If his early efforts in 2015-16 were any indication then he might have made a run for those awards again, but he only ended up playing in 12 games.

Montreal missed the playoffs despite its 9-0-0 start and 17-4-2 record through Price’s final game. While you can debate if Price could have prevented the Canadiens’ collapse, it seems fair to say that they were hurt by the absence of their franchise goalie.

Montreal’s collapse contributed to there being no Canadian squad in the playoffs this year. We could see several of those teams take a step forward in 2016-17, but the Canadiens with Price might still be the best of the bunch.

Related: Habs owner ‘not interested in excuses,’ but committed to ‘stability’ after disappointing season

UFA of the Day: Alexander Radulov

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Every day until June 30, we’ll write about a pending unrestricted free agent. Today’s UFA of the Day is…

Alexander Radulov

He could be the most interesting player entering the free agent market and in a year that might feature Steven Stamkos, that’s saying a ton.

The glaring difference is that Stamkos is a known entity whereas Radulov, despite having previously played in the NHL, really isn’t. He’s been a star in the KHL for years now, but will that translate to the NHL? Will there be off-ice problems, as there was when he last attempted to return to Nashville in 2012?

At the same time, that brief 2012 stint with the Predators did give us a taste of what he might be capable of in North America as he finished the regular season with three goals and seven points in nine games. Most recently he recorded 71 in 46 games and 65 points in 53 contests in each of his last two KHL seasons, which is more prolific than what Artemi Panarin did before he made the shift to Chicago.

So to say that Radulov, who will turn 30 on July 5th, has the potential to be an impact player isn’t an overstatement. But that’s not the only consideration teams need to make.

In an ideal scenario for NHL suitors, Radulov would accept a one-year trial contract for the 2016-17 campaign with the understanding that he’ll receive his big payday next summer if all goes well. However, he’s reportedly looking for a two-year, $15 million deal. That’s a huge gamble for any team to take on a player that’s played in nine NHL games since 2008-09, no matter how much potential he has.

Is there a team that might sign him in spite of all of that? Well, Detroit was previously linked to Radulov, but they were reportedly looking at a deal in the $4 million to $5 million range for a single season, so unless Radulov’s demands are much lower than has been suggested or he’s willing to back down considerably, they might be priced out of the market.

One strong alternative though is Colorado. As previously noted, Avalanche bench boss Patrick Roy coached him during his junior league days and might be looking to do so again.

Other teams that have been linked to Radulov include the Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Islanders, and New York Rangers.

Of course, this all comes down to what Radulov is willing to settle for. Would an insistence on a lucrative multi-year deal price him out of the market? By contrast is he willing to accept a one-year deal if that’s what’s available to him?

There’s so many X-factors with him. Hence why it will be so interesting to see how this unfolds.

Click here for all our 2016 UFA profiles.