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Las Vegas awarded NHL franchise

by Dan Rosen / Winnipeg Jets

LAS VEGAS -- The NHL is coming to Vegas baby, Vegas.

Commissioner Gary Bettman announced Wednesday in the ballroom of Encore at Wynn Las Vegas that the League has granted an expansion franchise to Las Vegas that will start playing as its 31st team in the 2017-18 season. The Las Vegas franchise was approved in a vote conducted during the Board of Governors meeting here Wednesday.

The NHL becomes the first of the four major North American professional sports leagues to put a team in Las Vegas. This will be the NHL's first expansion team since the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild came into the League in the 2000-01 season.

The League will receive a $500 million expansion fee from Bill Foley, the billionaire businessman who spearheaded the Las Vegas expansion bid and will be the franchise's principal owner. The $500 million will be distributed equally among the existing 30 franchises.

The approval of the Las Vegas franchise comes two days prior to the one-year anniversary of the NHL announcing the Board of Governors authorized a formal expansion process.

The Board of Governors also voted to defer the application for an expansion team from Quebecor Inc., which maintains the goal of bringing NHL hockey back to Quebec City.

The NHL announced that while it views Quebec City as a viable option for an NHL franchise in the future, the League's geographic imbalance, the difficulty of bringing two new teams in at the same time and the struggling Canadian dollar led the BOG to defer the application.

The Canadian dollar was trading at 78 cents on the U.S. dollar on Tuesday.

Las Vegas will be the eighth team in the Pacific Division and the 15th team in the Western Conference. The NHL has 16 teams in the Eastern Conference.

The Las Vegas franchise will play its home games at T-Mobile Arena, a state-of-the-art facility located just west of the famed Las Vegas Strip. T-Mobile Arena opened in April and can hold 17,368 for a hockey game.

Las Vegas has received more than 14,000 deposits for season tickets and has sold all of the luxury seats in T-Mobile Arena since Foley launched a season-ticket drive 16 months ago.

In addition, the NHL announced the rules for the expansion draft that will take place next summer to create the Las Vegas team.

Las Vegas must select one player from each of the existing 30 teams, including at least 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goalies.

It must select a minimum of 20 players who have existing contracts that carry through the 2017-18 season and the average annual value of the total contracts it takes on must be at least 60 percent of the 2016-17 season salary-cap limit, which is $73 million.

The earliest Las Vegas can buy out any of the contracts it takes on is the summer of 2018.

The existing 30 teams will have the option to protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie, or eight skaters regardless of position and one goalie from the expansion draft.

All players with "no movement" clauses in their contracts at the time of the expansion draft must be protected and will count toward their team's protection limits unless the player agrees to waive his no-movement clause.

Teams have to submit their protection lists by 5 p.m. ET on June 17, 2017. Las Vegas has to submit its selections for the expansion draft by 5 p.m. ET on June 20. The results of the expansion draft will be released publicly on June 21.

All forwards and defensemen exposed for the draft must be under contract for the 2017-18 season. Teams must expose a minimum of one defenseman and two forwards who played 40 or more games in the 2016-17 season or 70 or more games in the previous two seasons.

Goalies exposed for the draft can either be under contract for the 2017-18 season or scheduled to become a restricted free agent in the summer of 2017. In order to expose a goalie entering RFA status, the team must extend him his qualifying offer before submitting its protection list.

All first- and second-year pros and all unsigned draft picks are exempt from the expansion draft and will not have to be protected.

Las Vegas will be inserted into the NHL Draft Lottery with the same odds as the team that finishes with the third fewest points in the 2016-17 season. It will be guaranteed to have no lower than the No. 6 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft and will own the third pick in each subsequent round.

— Dan Rosen, NHL.com

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