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Gary Bettman says NHL is in good shape as Stanley Cup Final opens

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman says Phoenix Coyotes aren't going anywhere

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, addressing the media in his customary pre-Stanley Cup Final news conference, praised the state of the league, saying the game “has never been more exciting and competitive, our franchises have never been stronger and our owners have never been better.”

Speaking before Game 1 of the Final between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Chicago Blackhawks, Bettman touched on a number of issues without being definitive on any of them. He denied rumors that the Arizona Coyotes are having lease problems and said, “the club is not going anywhere.” He also said he will report to the league’s Board of Governors on the ongoing season ticket drive led by Bill Foley in Las Vegas, a potential expansion site, adding, “It looks like his drive has had some degree of success, to say the least.” Foley has said his group has surpassed its goal of 10,000 season tickets and is now selling partial-season packages.

The next step, Bettman said, would be to gauge the governors’ reaction, which could lead him to open a formal expansion process. However, opening the process doesn’t guarantee that expansion will proceed.

Bettman also said he will have to have a discussion with the NHL Players’ Assn. to help determine the salary cap for next season, but he expects it to be between $70 million and $71 million. He had no update on the participation of NHL players in the 2018 Winter Olympics because he said the league and the NHLPA are focused on organizing and staging the World Cup of Hockey tournament, to be played in Toronto in September 2016. Regarding the Olympics, he said he has been told by the International Ice Hockey Federation that “there’s still plenty of time for us to focus on that issue.”

In addition, Bettman said the league has “a variety of options” regarding investigating the actions of Kings defenseman Slava Voynov, who faces a trial next month on a charge of felony domestic violence. The league suspended Voynov with pay in October.

“We’re obviously sitting back and waiting to let the judicial system run its course,” Bettman said.

Separately, the Pittsburgh Penguins announced they have engaged Morgan Stanley to “oversee a review of their strategic options.” That likely means they’re exploring a sale of at least part of the franchise.

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