The Sharks will have a new division rival beginning with the 2017-18 season.
On Wednesday in Las Vegas, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman made it official that the league is expanding to 31 teams with the addition of a franchise in Sin City. The yet-to-be named club will be the eighth team in the Pacific Division, joining the Sharks, Ducks, Kings, Canucks, Flames, Oilers and Coyotes.
The Sharks will play Las Vegas at least four times. The club, owned by Bill Foley, will play its home games at the recently opened T-Mobile Arena, located on the Las Vegas strip.
“In the fall of 2017, when we celebrate the 100th birthday of the NHL, we will do so as a League of 31 teams,” Bettman said in a statement. “We are pleased to welcome Bill Foley and the city of Las Vegas to the League and are truly excited that an NHL franchise will be the first major professional sports team in this vibrant, growing, global destination city.”
The NHL expansion is the first since 1997, when the league phased in Nashville, Atlanta, Columbus and Minnesota over a three-year span.
The expansion fee of $500 million “will be distributed in equal shares to each of the NHL’s 30 presently existing clubs,” according to the league.
An expansion draft for Las Vegas will take place on June 21, 2017. Current clubs will be permitted to protect seven forward, three defenseman and one goalie; or eight skaters and one goaltender. Players with no movement clauses must be protected, while all first and second year players and unsigned draft choices will be exempt. Las Vegas must select one player from each of the 30 teams.
The NHL deferred the expansion application for a team in Quebec City, citing geographic imbalance and the weak Canadian dollar.