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Golden Knights interested in bringing AHL team to Las Vegas

Current affiliate in Chicago; league president says there have been discussions with some owners

by Patrick Williams / Independent Correspondent

ONTARIO, Calif. -- The Vegas Golden Knights are looking to bring an American Hockey League team to Las Vegas, AHL president and chief executive officer Dave Andrews said Monday. 

Andrews, who will retire June 30 after 26 seasons, was giving his final state of the league address hours before the AHL All-Star Challenge (10 p.m. ET; TSN, NHLN), a 3-on-3, round-robin tournament between the league's four divisions (Atlantic, North, Central, and Pacific).

"Vegas has an interest in buying an AHL team," Andrews said. "They are in discussion with some of our owners about potentially buying a franchise. It is not at the point where anything is in front of me or in front of our [Board of Governors]."

The Golden Knights have been affiliated with Chicago since entering the NHL as an expansion team in 2017. Last season, Chicago advanced to the Calder Cup Finals before losing in five games to Charlotte (Carolina Hurricanes). 

"I think that at some point there will be an [AHL] team in Vegas, or [the Golden Knights] will own a team," Andrews said before adding that to make a move feasible for next season, "it would have to happen pretty soon."

Andrews also said he expects Palm Springs, which will be the home of the AHL affiliate for the Seattle NHL expansion team, to break ground on a new arena and practice facility "within the next month or so."

Video: NHL Seattle announces AHL affiliate in Palm Springs

Seattle and Palm Springs each is expected to begin play in the 2021-22 season. 

Seattle, the Oak View Group and the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians are collaborating on the $250 million, 10,000-seat arena and practice facility in Palm Springs, which is located near Ontario (Los Angeles Kings) and San Diego (Anaheim Ducks) in Southern California.

One of the final major projects for Andrews was signing a new collective bargaining agreement with the Professional Hockey Players' Association. The two sides completed a five-year agreement before this season that will carry through 2023-24.

The new CBA will have a significant new wrinkle next season. With a priority development, the AHL "veteran rule" requires teams to dress no more than five veteran players (goalies excluded) in a game. Veterans are defined as players who have played more than 320 NHL, AHL or high-level European regular-season games. Teams may also dress one "veteran-exempt" player (between 261-320 NHL, AHL or high-level European regular-season games) in a game.

For the 2020-21 season, players who have not turned 25 years old before July 1 will not qualify as a veteran.

Andrews said the move, which was proposed by the PHPA, was made to give relief to players entering the league at 20 years old who were at a disadvantage to their peers from the NCAA, who typically turn pro at an older age.

"We listened and said, 'That actually makes sense,'" Andrews said.

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