NHL commissioner Gary Bettman holds a jersey after the NHL Board of Governors announced Seattle as the league’s 32nd franchise Tuesday in Sea Island Ga. Joining Bettman, from left to right, are Jerry Bruckheimer, David Bonderman, David Wright, Tod Leiweke and Washington Wild youth hockey player Jaina Goscinski. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman holds a jersey after the NHL Board of Governors announced Seattle as the league’s 32nd franchise Tuesday in Sea Island Ga. Joining Bettman, from left to right, are Jerry Bruckheimer, David Bonderman, David Wright, Tod Leiweke and Washington Wild youth hockey player Jaina Goscinski. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

What’s next for Seattle’s NHL expansion team?

Putting together a hockey staff and completing the renovation of KeyArena are the top priorities

  • Wednesday, December 5, 2018 9:53am
  • Sports

SEA ISLAND, Ga. — Seattle’s NHL expansion team has its roots in Dave Tippett’s computer.

That’s where the longtime coach-turned-senior adviser keeps a running list of players around the league who might be available in an expansion draft that is still 2½ years off. It is just an exercise for now but will become a key building block when Seattle picks its first players in June 2021.

“Every year it’ll change a little bit,” Tippett said. “By the time it gets here, you’ll have a pretty good idea of where you think teams are going to fall.”

Long months are ahead before the unnamed team plays its first game, but work is already underway and the effort can begin in earnest now that the NHL Board of Governors has officially awarded Seattle a franchise. Groundbreaking on a total overhaul of KeyArena is Wednesday, and Seattle’s front office will spend the rest of this season plotting the course for an organization that has a tough act to follow after the Vegas Golden Knights reached the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season.

“Part of the DNA of this ownership group is we’re extremely competitive,” said Tod Leiweke, a minority partner, president and CEO of Seattle Hockey Partners. “We’re here to win. And we want to win. So we’re going to look at these timelines and how it can be put to our advantage.”

That means Tippett will watch the rest of this season with an eye on the new team’s future as he sketches out the beginnings of a hockey operations department. He likely will be senior vice president of hockey operations and have a big say in choosing the first general manager of the league’s 32nd team.

Tippett likely will hire some scouts this summer and move forward on the GM search.

“When you’re a year or two out, everything continues to evolve,” Tippett said. “You continue to monitor things. It’s an ever-changing world out there right now in the hockey world between coaches and GMs.”

Veteran Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland is considered a potential candidate, and Vegas assistant Kelly McCrimmon would know the recipe for a successful expansion draft after helping George McPhee put the Golden Knights together. The same rules will be in place for the expansion draft. Teams will be allowed to protect seven forwards, three defensemen and a goaltender, or eight skaters at any position and a goaltender.

That means that for $650 million, Seattle will have an opportunity to win right away.

“It gives you an excitement that you can have a team that’s not your expansion teams of the past with the NHL rules,” Tippett said. “You can have a competitive team like Vegas. Nobody expected that from them. But it’s not as if you’re in a five-year rebuild or five-year starting point. You actually can get some good players because of the rules.”

Leiweke is friends with McPhee and Golden Knights president Kerry Bubolz and said his new team will build “brick by brick” like Vegas did.

First, there are real bricks. Majority owner David Bonderman said the immediate focus is on getting arena renovations and three-rink practice facility construction completed. Leiweke expects the 17,000-seat downtown arena to open in March or April 2021 and host the expansion draft.

Tippett has a hand in all those projects and also is working to settle Seattle’s American Hockey League affiliate.

And he and the ownership group will, at some point, go on a hiring spree to try to replicate Vegas’ success.

“We have momentum, and this is a business of recruitment,” Leiweke said. “We now really feel confident that we’ll be able to recruit a top-flight staff. And we need to, because this is the most competitive league in the world, and parity is the trademark of the National Hockey League today. So we’re going to have to be really, really good at recruiting, but our owners are going to give us everything we need.”

Talk to us

More in Sports

Marysville Pilchuck soccer player Edgar Martinez

Standout defender also kicked for the football team and shares a name with a Seattle Mariners icon.

AquaSox season over after MLB cancels minor-league season

In a statement, the team said it looks “forward to having AquaSox baseball back at Funko Field in 2021.”

What’s next for Mariners’ minor-leaguers?

The the minor-league season canceled, most young players will be left to work out on their own.

Everett Merchants’ season canceled due to pandemic

The semi-pro summer baseball team was hoping to play its 47th season under coach Harold Pyatte.

Empty stands at Emerald Downs leave empty feeling inside

The reality of the summer sets in when witnessing first-hand empty stands at a sporting event.

Community sports roundup: GP grad headed to rodeo finals

Plus, an EvCC pitcher signs with the Yankees, locals affected by SPU shuttering gymnastics, and more.

Canadian Hockey League hit with abuse lawsuit

The lawsuit alleges the CHL and its member leagues have been complicit in the abuse of underage players.

Amazon pays for rights to rename KeyArena ‘Climate Pledge’

The stadium will be the home for Seattle’s yet-to-be-named hockey team.

Everett Silvertips defenseman Olen Zellweger controls the puck before a backdrop of fans during a game against the Saskatoon Blades last November at Angel of the Winds Arena. Readers weighed in on whether they’d be comfortable attending a Silvertips game with Angel of the Winds at 50% capacity amidst the coronavirus pandemic. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
POLL RESULTS: Majority of fans would attend Tips games

However, 38% would not be comfortable going to Angel of the Winds Arena at 50% capacity.

New Seattle hockey venue to be named Climate Pledge Arena

Amazon purchases the naming rights for the former KeyArena and puts the focus on its climate-change message.

NFL says training camps still on for late July

Although contingency plans are being made, the league intends to start training camp on time.

Snohomish track and field standout Ellie Grant

The talented jumper overcame scoliosis and will study biochemistry at the University of Idaho.