NHL Rumors: Latest Buzz on Expansion, Washington Capitals and Player Movement

Patrick ClarkeCorrespondent IJanuary 30, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 24:  Alex Ovechkin #8 of the Washington Capitals skates on the ice against the Montreal Canadiens at Verizon Center on January 24, 2013 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

The shortened 2013 NHL season is only in its second week, but already, rumors have begun cropping up around the league.

From talk of possible expansion to the Washington Capitals' horrid start to the year, sources are speaking and creating plenty of chatter to discuss this winter. 

Here, we'll break down some of the latest NHL buzz.


New NHL Franchise Coming Soon?

According to ESPN Insider's (paid subscription required) Victoria Matiash, former NHLPA executive director Paul Kelly spoke of plans to expand the league to 32 teams during his time with the Players' Association a few years back.

And then this from CBC Sports on Tuesday:

Markham city councillors have voted in support of a funding plan to build an NHL-style arena with the help of public funding. 

The big draw for many in Markham is the suggestion that the new rink could be a potential home for a new NHL franchise.

Former NHLPA executive Paul Kelly said if the city doesn't act now it may miss the boat forever. "If you don't act now you'll likely never have another chance to get an NHL team," he said.

According to Kelly, who is serving as a member of the arena project's team, expansion could occur over the next two or three years and would likely involve Quebec City and or Toronto (via Matiash).

The Minnesota Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets were the last two NHL expansion teams. Both joined the league in 2000.


Caps Not Panicking Yet

One year after making a deep Stanley Cup playoff run, the Washington Capitals are off to an awful start under new head coach Adam Oates, having won just one of their first six games this season. Only the Florida Panthers have been worse than the Caps to begin the shortened, 48-game season.

But Washington isn't panicking just yet, according to this from CBC Sports' Elliotte Friedman:

Some of their opponents do feel Washington is one club badly hurt by the lack of exhibition games. It will take time to adjust from Dale Hunter's system to Adam Oates'. McPhee said that when the Devils made changes last season (with Oates on staff), "It took 16-20 games before they were doing it right."

Although Caps general manager George McPhee brings up a solid point regarding Oates and his first season with the team, the truncated season may not allow Washington 16-20 games to figure things out.

Washington's 1-4-1 start to the season is shocking, to say the least, following its flawless 7-0 start a year ago.


Teams Interested in Brent Sopel?

36-year-old Kontinental Hockey League defender Brent Sopel is apparently drawing interest from some NHL teams this winter, according to ESPN senior NHL writer Craig Custance (via Twitter):

Sopel has played for six different NHL teams over the course of his career and is currently suiting up for the KHL's Metallurg Novokuznetsk. However CBC Sports' Elliotte Friedman points out a potential issue for NHL teams looking to bring on Sopel:

Problem with Sopel is that, according to the NHL, any player who dressed for a game in another league after Jan. 19 must clear waivers. The KHL's website indicates he played on Jan. 26.

There are several teams out there in desperate need of a veteran defenseman, but it looks like they'll be forced to jump through some hoops if they want to acquire Sopel for a run at the Stanley Cup playoffs. 


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