NHL expansion took a big step forward on Friday as both Las Vegas and Quebec City have advanced to what is believed to be the final stage in the NHL expansion process.
The news was first announced by Quebecor.
— Québecor (@Quebecor) August 21, 2015
Josh Cooper reported soon after that Las Vegas had also advanced in the process.
Las Vegas has moved to Phase III of the NHL's expansion process per league. @Quebecor announced earlier it had done so as well ...
— JoshuaCooper (@JoshuaCooper) August 21, 2015
The news was later confirmed in an email by NHL Deputy Commissioner Biill Daly to The Associated Press. Though he called the third stage "the last formal phase" he also cautioned that "It does not necessarily constitute the end of the process."
Both cities advanced from the first phase in July. They now enter the third stage which will end sometime in September. If either city should advance they will have to both receive the approval from the board of governors and pay a $500 million expansion fee in order to be awarded franchises.
The NHL's decision regarding these cities could come as early as next month though the neither team would likely begin play until at least the 2017-18 season.
After divisional realignment in 2013-14 left the Western Conference with two fewer teams than the East, it was believed that this was done with future expansion in mind. Should the NHL add Quebec City, however, the NHL would have to consider further realignment due to the city's location (it is about as far east as Boston). While Vegas or Seattle--a city that was expected to file for expansion but could not meet the NHL's initial requirements--could have both been placed in the West with minimal divisional changes, the addition of Quebec City would likely mean an eastern team would eventually be pushed into the Western Conference.
A team in Las Vegas would be the city's first major sports franchise.