The NHL’s expansion into the Seattle market is finally official. Today, the NHL Board of Governors unanimously approved of a new team in the Emerald City to join the league in 2021.
Fans of the Vegas Golden Knights might be wondering how the expansion will affect the NHL’s now second-youngest franchise, as well as the league as a whole. Luckily, we’ve got the details on how the Seattle expansion will impact Vegas, the Pacific Division, and the NHL.
The Golden Knights are exempt from the expansion draft
There was a whole lot of hooplah when the NHL held the expansion draft for the Golden Knights. Initially, some said that Vegas had put together a really bad team. Once that was proven otherwise, there were claims that the draft was rigged in the Knights’ favor. Despite the controversy, Seattle’s expansion draft will have the exact same stipulations that Vegas did.
However, the Golden Knights won’t have to worry about protecting any players in 2021. Back in March, Sportsnet reported that team owner Bill Foley struck a deal with the NHL when Vegas was granted a franchise to exclude them from a potential expansion draft, so the new Seattle team will not be entitled to claim a player off of the Knights’ roster. However, Vegas also won’t be getting the $21.67 million the other 30 teams will receive from Seattle’s $650 million expansion fee.
While this is old news, it’s important to note. Foley had great foresight to protect his franchise while it’s still so young. For such a successful team, it’s the cherry on top.
Seattle will join the Pacific Division, booting the Arizona Coyotes to the Central Division
Adding Seattle to the fold brings the number of NHL teams to 32. As a result, the league is shuffling the Pacific and Central Divisions around, but just slightly. Seattle’s team will join the Pacific Division, and the Arizona Coyotes will be sent to the Central Division to even things out.
The Seattle franchise will begin play in the Pacific Division of the Western Conference and the @ArizonaCoyotes will realign to the Central Division. https://t.co/gYSiUWAreM #NHLSeattle pic.twitter.com/bT9myflZLF— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) December 4, 2018
This effectively ends any sort of “desert hockey” rivalry between the Coyotes and the Golden Knights. The stakes just aren’t as high — and besides, Vegas’ all-time record against Arizona is 5-1. It was never an exciting rivalry to begin with.
Having two of the newest NHL teams in the same division, however, could be pretty exciting. What happens to the new kid in town when a newer kid arrives?
Right now, the Golden Knights have an interesting identity. They’ve proven themselves capable and worthy, but there are still doubters because of the team’s youth. And they’ve only gotten more vocal because of Vegas’ rough start to the season.
Until the Seattle team forms, it’s impossible to say if there will be an intense rivalry from the get-go or if the games will simply be business as usual. That being said, putting Seattle in the Pacific certainly increases the chances of more exciting matchups.
Expansion shows the NHL is healthy and growing
Depending on what figures you’re looking at, the National Hockey League is either shrinking or growing in popularity.
Viewership numbers raise concerns. NHL viewership on NBC and its networks increased in the 2017-18 regular season, while overall viewership decreased. So, less people are watching hockey.
But if you follow the money, you’ll find that the NHL is doing just fine, and the league’s success in Las Vegas is partially responsible. NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daley told TSN in May that the Golden Knights impacted the league’s rise in salary caps this season.
Additionally, when the Golden Knights joined the NHL, their expansion fee was $500 million. Seattle’s is $650 million. To put this in perspective, expected inflation puts $500 million’s worth in 2021 at $563 million in today’s dollars.
Clearly the NHL is taking note of how popular hockey has become in their newest market and hoping to recreate some magic in Washington State. This growth will impact all NHL teams positively by increasing the league’s revenue.
Congratulations to the hockey fans of Seattle! We’re looking forward to 2021 as much as you are.