A decision on whether Seattle will play host to the June 2021 NHL expansion and entry drafts won’t have to be made for another 13 months.
That’s what NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Friday during an interview before participating on a panel at a local medical conference on the topic of concussions. Daly spent the morning with NHL Seattle officials at their new suites preview center and said afterward the league can wait on the drafts until more is known a year from now about the exact date for completing the $900 million KeyArena renovation.
“It’s something we’ve talked about with the club, obviously, on a number of occasions, as to whether they can be in a position to host the draft in 2021 — including the expansion draft,’’ Daly said. “Obviously, we’re intrigued by that possibility. I think we have some time to make that decision.’’
Of prime importance, he added, is gauging the city’s available hotel space and making sure there are no major event conflicts. Daly said the league can afford to wait as long as until June 2020 before making a final call.
“Obviously the arena completion timeline at this point would be a consideration, a factor for us to consider,’’ Daly said. “So we’ll wait to see what the arena progression looks like before we have to make a decision. I think historically, we have to be at least a year out from the event before making announcements. We’d like to be before that if possible in terms of making that decision, so we’ll have to see how things play out.’’
KeyArena construction executive Ken Johnsen said a few weeks back that his team won’t know a more precise completion date for roughly another year. For now, the Mortenson general contractor, Oak View Group (OVG) developer and NHL Seattle have set a June 1, 2021, target date for reopening what will amount to a brand-new arena — nearly double in size — underneath the existing, historically protected roof.
But given the drafts take place only three weeks or so after that target date, there’s not a lot of margin for error. The project has already experienced delays of several months due to a broadening of scope, cost escalations and a contractor change.
Daly said the league isn’t worried about the venue being ready for the October 2021 launch of the team, noting such delays are always expected and that’s the reason the NHL balked at attempting a 2020 debut for the team. He said the league could always stretch out the team’s road schedule a bit to start the 2021-22 season if need be, though it’s not ideal and something the NHL does not anticipate happening.
“I’m not working at the construction site every day, but we are in regular communication both with the club and with OVG,’’ he said. “They both have a high level of confidence that the timeline is going to be met.’’
For now, it could be a quieter summer than the team anticipated, given that their top general manager candidates have quickly vanished from the market. The latest occurred Thursday, when the Vegas Golden Knights promoted assistant GM Kelly McCrimmon to their GM job while incumbent George McPhee was made president of hockey operations.
A similar situation occurred last month when the Detroit Red Wings engineered a similar setup with new GM Steve Yzerman and former incumbent Ken Holland. NHL Seattle had its sights on Yzerman, Holland and McCrimmon for their GM post and had obtained ownership permission to make a hiring this summer had those candidates become available.
But with all three now locked up, it’s highly likely the new team will wait for the next round of candidates to emerge a year from now before making their GM push. Expansion teams typically don’t hire a GM more than two years out, though NHL Seattle was prepared to make an exception for Yzerman, Holland or McCrimmon given how highly regarded they are within the industry.
The team did allow senior adviser Dave Tippett to be interviewed last week by the Buffalo Sabres for their coaching vacancy — as first reported by Sportsnet host Elliotte Friedman. Part of Tippett’s deal with NHL Seattle ahead of taking his current job was that he could interview for any coaching positions he was interested in.
A source said Tippett wanted to “hear the Sabres out’’ to see whether he’d even be interested in the job. The Sabres have yet to make a decision and are believed to be interviewing several other candidates.