According to Dreger, the decision will also involve whether that potential expansion would include one or two teams. Per Dreger, the next step in the process will be for the executive committee to make its recommendation, with the feeling among the general managers that the league will expand by one team, likely to be based in Las Vegas.
As for the salary cap, Dreger reported it was "expected to top out around $74 million" in 2016.
But talk of expansion was the big news of the day. Dreger shared more information from the GM meetings on how the expansion draft would potentially work:
Expansion draft potential. Each team has option of protecting 3d, 7F and I goalie or 8 skaters +1 goalie. Expansion determined before draft— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) March 16, 2016
The NHL's deputy commissioner, Bill Daly, said prospects and any first- or second-year professional players—which includes AHL players—would be exempt from the expansion draft, according to Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com. Daly added that in a one-team expansion, NHL teams could only lose one player in the draft; in a two-team expansion, NHL teams could lose up to two players.
Adding an expansion team would bring the league up to 31 teams, with the potential team in Las Vegas almost assuredly heading to the Western Conference based on the current geographical layout of the league and the fact that the Eastern Conference has 16 teams and the Western Conference currently has 14.
It may be a while before the team in Las Vegas is a viable playoff contender, of course. As Kevin Allen of USA Today noted, the Minnesota Wild made the postseason just three times in their first 11 years, while the Columbus Blue Jackets have only reached the postseason twice in their existence.
Both teams joined the NHL in the 2000 expansion draft.
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