Maybe there is something to the Las Vegas rumors after all.
Two days after respected columnist Tony Gallagher of The Province said an NHL franchise in Sin City is "a done deal," another well-known figure has come to the same conclusion.
"We will have an NHL team in Las Vegas in 2016," Dan Patrick said during his talk show on Thursday. "This is from a financial person who is involved in this. The paperwork is already done. This is, as has been reported, a done deal. We'll have a hockey team in Las Vegas in 2016. The question is, is it going to be an expansion team or is it going to be a relocation?"
That's a twist. Gallagher's story and all the subsequent denials were focused solely on expansion. Relocation throws a wrench into the equation for two reasons. First, the league has shown a great willingness to fight for franchise stability when there have been options for pulling up stakes. Second, and this is the real kicker, there's no money in relocation for the league.
As I wrote this morning, an existing team looking for a new home is likely to be directed toward Portland. The city has an NHL-ready building and an interested buyer in Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen who has made it clear that he has no interest in paying expansion prices. If the league wants to do business in the Pacific Northwest, and if a club is inclined to look for greener pastures, this could be the chance.
The 'Yotes. Okay. The Hurricanes, though? That's out of left field, especially when a team like the Florida Panthers seems much closer to hitting the road.
Ultimately, the relocation angle doesn't make sense. If Vegas happens, it won't be an airlift. It'll be all about the big payout that will be divvied up among the rest of the league's owners.
And Patrick's date? Well, 2016 would be a tight timeline for expansion, but it is conceivable. Nashville was granted a franchise on June 25, 1997 and hit the ice Oct. 10, 1998, but the Wild and Blue Jackets had an extra year to plan and were probably better off for it.
Giving Vegas an extra year makes sense. And 2017-18 will be the league's centennial season. What better way to celebrate than throwing a party in a party town where the league walks away with a $350 million gift?
GALLERY: Fates of NHL Expansion Teams