TAMPA -- Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman is a fan of the Vegas Golden Knights.
During his end-of-season press conference, Yzerman said the success of the Golden Knights, who became the third team in NHL history to advance to the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season (Toronto Arenas, 1918; St. Louis Blues, 1968), is a positive for the NHL.
Vegas will host Game 1 of the Final against the Washington Capitals, who eliminated Tampa Bay, on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS).
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"I do think it's great for our league," Yzerman said. "Las Vegas was awarded a franchise and they paid a significant franchise fee to come into the League ($500 million). I think looking back, and I'm speaking a little bit out of turn here, but looking back at our league and the history of expansion, it's tough in some of the markets that ... if that team doesn't have a chance for a few years it's tough to grow that fan base."
Vegas made the most of the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft, selecting key players left unprotected including forwards Jonathan Marchessault (Florida Panthers) and William Karlsson (Columbus Blue Jackets), defenseman Nate Schmidt (Washington Capitals) and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who won the Stanley Cup three times with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
To Yzerman, the expansion draft was necessary for the Golden Knights to compete.
"The rest of the League, it was tough on us because we were losing good players, but I think [Commissioner] Gary Bettman did the right thing," Yzerman said. "I don't think anybody knew [the Golden Knights] were going to be this competitive. They're really, really good and it's not an accident. And from the start of the season everyone was like, 'You think they can do it'? And every time you play them you're like, 'They're really good.'"
The fans in Las Vegas quickly embraced the Golden Knights and have made T-Mobile Arena one of the toughest places for opponents in the NHL. Vegas went 29-10-2 at home in the regular season and is 6-1 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"It's an interesting market. Someone used the term it's a 'sexy market', I'm not really sure what that means but it gets a lot of attention," Yzerman said. "And it sounds like we may expand by another team at some point and it will be interesting to see what happens there. But the idea that these teams are competitive in these non-traditional markets I think is important."
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