Las Vegas's NHL expansion bid learning to be patient
One year into his efforts to secure an NHL expansion team for Las Vegas, billionaire businessman Bill Foley has learned hard lessons about patience and process.
“I thought we’d have the team in no time,” Foley told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “It just shows you how naive I was.”
Hopeful, maybe, but not naive. Foley has proven himself a master of playing the admission game. He's avoided the mistakes of previous would-be owners like Jim Balsillie, who repeatedly attempted to barge through the front door rather than waiting for someone to open it for him. He's kept a low profile as the current owners review his application. His practiced interview manner has helped him avoid saying anything that might sour the process.
As a result, he comes off as the perfect future neighbor, enthusiastic but respectful.
Not that it's been easy. Foley, who says he's "not a patient man," is basically sitting by the phone waiting for it to ring.
"I don't talk to the owners," he told local station KSNV. "I'm in a quiet time. I just try to be patient. To be responsive. We've given them all the information they need to vet me...They're doing their job, they're doing their process."
Ideally, Foley would like to know where he stands by June so that he can officially begin preparations to begin play in the 2017-18 season. He needs that time to hire a general manager and coach during the coming offseason, along with scouting and support staffs.
But there are a lot of questions still to be answered before that happens, including how many teams will be admitted and how they'll be regulated by the salary cap.
“It depends on how much they’ll let us use in the first year," he said, likely envisioning what he could accomplish in free agency with a blank slate. "It may be all, it may not be all."
Then there's the matter of the expansion draft.
And that's the tricky one.
For his half a billion dollar entry fee, Foley is right to expect a quality pool of players from which to select. That means a viable mix of veterans and prospects that will allow his team to give a good account of itself right out of the box and also have something to build on.
Current teams will want to protect as many assets as possible, but they also recognize the importance of icing a competitive team in a new market.
There also will be a contentious discussion about the exposure of players who hold no-movement clauses. The CBA states that an NMC "may prevent the involuntary relocation of a player, whether by trade, loan or waiver claim."
There's no mention, however, of whether one precludes a player from being exposed in an expansion draft. That's an issue the league will have to determine in partnership with the NHLPA.
The owners are sure to be in favor, if only for the chance to move a few bloated contracts off their books.
The union is likely to offer some push-back—their cooperation is a bargaining chip after all, and Donald Fehr doesn't waste those—but this is a no-brainer. While some players will be unhappy about having their protection nullified, the trade-off is an additional 20 athletes earning an NHL paycheck each and every night of the season. That's a net win for the union.
Foley is doing what he can behind the scenes. He's picked team colors—black, grey and gold to honor his West Point heritage. He also has a preferred nickname, the Black Knights, although he's promised to open that up to a fan vote conducted through the Review-Journal. There's also planning underway to build the team a practice facility that could also help grow the game at the youth level.
And while he waits, he's imagining what might lie ahead.
"We'll do well," he said. "Our goal is to win 25-30 games the first season, 40 games the second [and] 50 games the third season and be in the playoffs."
He might find a little patience comes in handy there, too.