This is still very unconfirmed, or at least a unconfirmed as one of these "done deals" can be. But according to reports from Sports Illustrated, NHL Expansion in Las Vegas in 2017 is a done deal. Not only that, but according to other reports the four teams have already been decided: Toronto (B), Las Vegas, Quebec City and Seattle.
Three of those expansion locations have been talked about for a long, long time. Toronto has been rumored to be getting a second team for years. Quebec has been rumored to be getting another team back since the Nordiques left. Seattle is a sports-crazed town that's perfect for a hockey team -- but the rumors were always that an NHL team would not go without an NBA counterpart.
But as we've noted previously about Vegas: It's unlike any other market in professional sports. There's unrivaled competition for entertainment dollars. Many of the people who would attend the games as local fans are working while the games are being played. The largest target audience for the team would be the casinos who fill the considerable luxury box space in the new arena and tourists who pop in to see a game while in Sin City - or, perhaps, get comp'd for one.
It wouldn't surprise us in the least to see the NHL dive into the market, despite those mysteries, just to be first ones in and because Bettman obviously believes an association with Vegas brings some level of prestige to the League.
There are, however, serious issues with the reports. For one thing, there doesn't seem to be a confirmed ownership group for this mystery Vegas team, despite it being a "done deal." Now it's entirely possible no one knows who the group is -- which is different than them not existing, obviously -- but it's still a red flag.
Many, many people will scream and cry about how this doesn't make any sense with the southern teams not doing as well as they were expected to. But as Deadspin smartly points out, the southern expansion had more to do with the TV markets than anything else:
Wouldn't most everybody be better off relocating current teams? (It's not going to happen. There are leases to honor, owners to humor, and Gary Bettman's Southern Strategy wasn't ever even about attendance-it's about being able to offer massive markets like Miami and Phoenix when negotiating national TV deals.)
The biggest question about a four-team expansion would be the talent dilution. On one hand, it would make star players that much more important to each and every team. On the other hand, it will also ensure players who wouldn't crack and NHL roster today will be mainstays in the NHL for the next few years.
There's a lot to talk about here. Nothing that really impacts the Rangers as of right now, but it's something to talk about in August.