NHL Seattle Expansion Moves Closer and Sharks Could Have Company in Pacific

The Sharks may have new company in the Pacific Division as soon as 2020-2021.

The NHL's executive committee unanimously approved sending Seattle's expansion bid to a full vote from the league's board of governors, commissioner Gary Bettman announced on Tuesday. The full board will vote on the group's proposal to award the NHL's 32nd franchise to Seattle at its next meeting in December.

If and when Seattle joins the league, it would make sense the club would play in the Pacific Division. The Vancouver Canucks, who joined the Pacific Division during the NHL's last realignment ahead of the 2013-14 season, would be Seattle's closest geographic rival.

But, the division currently has eight teams (Anaheim, Arizona, Calgary, Edmonton, Los Angeles, San Jose, Vancouver, and Vegas), which would force one team out of the division. Bettman told The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun there will not be a "major realignment."

No matter what division a Seattle expansion team plays in, the club will receive a player from the Sharks. Bettman said the expansion draft will follow the same rules as last time, and that the Golden Knights won't have to participate in the draft. Because of that, Vegas will not receive a share of Seattle's $650 million expansion fee, as Sportsnet's Chris Johnston noted. 

San Jose, then, will be able to elect to protect 11 players (seven forwards, three defensemen, and a goaltender) or nine players (four forwards, four defensemen, and a goaltender). Players with no-movement clauses have to be protected, while first- and second-year NHL players will be exempt.

The executive committee meeting was the last hurdle before the final vote for NHL Seattle, the group bidding for an expansion team. On Sept. 24, the Seattle City Council unanimously approved a $700 million renovation of KeyArena, the current home of the WNBA's Seattle Storm and the former one of the NBA's Seattle SuperSonics, who relocated to Oklahoma City to become the Thunder in 2008.

Bettman told reporters that the goal is to get Seattle playing by the 2020-21 season, but that the NHL is willing to admit them the following season. The NHL and NHLPA can choose to opt out of the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) next September, and both sides would have to reach a new agreement in order to avoid a work stoppage.  

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