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Seattle slides into planning phase

The Associated Press

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, center, holds a jersey after the NHL Board of Governors announced Seattle as the league’s 32nd franchise on Tuesday in Sea Island, Ga.

The Associated PressSEA ISLAND, Ga. (AP) — 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 as-yet-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 and he will sketch out the beginnings of a hockey operations department. He will likely 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 will likely 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 that allow teams to protect only seven forwards, three defensemen and a goaltender, or eight skaters at any position and a goaltender.

That means that for $850 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.

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