<
>

Ramblings: NHL needs to explain expansion plans soon

Teams need time to plan if the NHL is going to be moving pieces around for expansion. Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Expansion talk is at a fever pitch right now with the NHL’s board of governors meeting in picturesque Pebble Beach, California.

Even though commissioner Gary Bettman has continued to cool expansion talk with the party line that the league will expand when it thinks it’s the right time, which means maybe not at all, it will be a great shock if the league doesn’t grow by at least one team in the short term and likely two teams over the next five years or so.

This brings us to the timing of an expansion announcement. As we have been discussing for some time now (our good friend and colleague Craig Custance revisited the topic from California), the impact of an expansion team on the rest of the league is significant.

What would an expansion draft look like? When would it be held? What would the rules look like vis a vis losing skaters and goaltenders?

We have been told that no-move and no-trade clauses for players would not exempt them from being exposed in a possible expansion draft. Would that become reality?

The league has to be very cognizant of being fair to the rest of the league, especially given the importance of long-term planning when it comes to personnel. Sure the owners are going to get a nice fat check from expansion fees that will be at least $500 million, but general managers need to be able to plan and that means knowing if there is going to be expansion and how it will work.

We have talked about the possibility that the NHL would take advantage of All-Star Weekend in Nashville, Tennessee, at the end of January to make an announcement on expansion. We think it’s incumbent on the league to let all concerned -- Bill Foley in Las Vegas, the would-be owners in Quebec City, GMs, players and fans -- know its expansion plans at All-Star Weekend, even if that means explaining that expansion will be on the shelf for the present time.