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Expansion plans not stalling to allow for Seattle bid: Bettman

Gary Bettman told media in Nashville that expansion isn't on a firm timeline. Patrick McDermott/NHL/Getty Images
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The drawn-out expansion process still doesn't have a firm timeline, although commissioner Gary Bettman did say Saturday during a news conference that a recommendation from the owners' executive committee could come within the next couple of months.

The board of governors meeting Saturday morning was a bit thin on substance and included an expansion update that "lasted less than two minutes," according to one governor.

That's because there's nothing to discuss with the full 30-owner board until the smaller executive committee -- which met Jan. 20 in New York -- gives a recommendation.

Bettman on Saturday said that recommendation would come in three forms: expand by one team, by two teams, or not to expand at all.

The next scheduled board of governors meeting isn't until June, but Bettman allowed on Saturday for the possibility of calling a special owners meeting to vote on expansion before then if indeed that's what the executive committee believes is the right course of action.

Of note on Saturday, however, was Bettman firmly shutting down speculation that the drawn-out expansion process, which has taken longer than most people predicted, was related to giving Seattle time to get its act together. Bettman said that couldn't be further from the truth, and in fact at this point the NHL will not allow another city into the current expansion process, which includes Las Vegas and Quebec City as the applicants.

If I were a betting man, I think the executive committee will recommend expansion to Las Vegas but not yet for Quebec City. Nobody from the NHL has said that but that's the prevailing wisdom from the governors I've spoken with the past few months. However, I should note none of those governors is from the executive committee; those guys have been muzzled on the topic.

I think the low Canadian dollar plus the fact there's already an East-West conference imbalance will sideline Quebec City in the end, although I still think a team will end up in Quebec City whether from eventual expansion or via relocation.

Other agenda items discussed at Saturday's board of governors meeting:

  • A hockey operations report on the progress of the coach's challenge and 3-on-3 overtime, which were both new this season. There could be tweaks at the camera angles for offside calls.

  • A report was given on the new team program about domestic violence issues -- status and substance of training for the players.

  • A report on the league-wide Future Goals (in-school) Program and the rollout of the league-wide Learn to Play Program.

What wasn't discussed was the low Canadian dollar and its impact on hockey-related revenue and the salary cap.

It seems unlikely that the cap figure of $74.5 million that the league projected to governors in Pebble Beach in early December will still happen, now that the Canadian dollar has continued to sink. However, deputy commissioner Bill Daly wouldn't provide a new projected cap number Saturday when asked, citing the volatility of the Canadian dollar making it difficult to do so at this point.

Daly, during a media scrum after Bettman's news conference, was also asked about the league's investigation of Patrick Kane for last summer's alleged sexual assault in his hometown of Buffalo.

"It is ongoing," Daly responded, without providing more details.