The NHL insists expansion is not imminent.
"Nothing has happened to change the status quo," NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said in a telephone interview Wednesday with The Associated Press. "There continues to be interest from some markets, and we continue to be interested in discussing the possibilities, but there is no plan moving forward in terms of expansion."
The NHL has not expanded since the 2000-01 season when the Minnesota Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets became the 29th and 30th franchises in the league. After last year's realignment, the Eastern Conference has 16 teams and there are 14 in the Western Conference.
Seattle, Toronto, Quebec City, Las Vegas and Kansas City have been mentioned as markets that might land a new team in the league.
"If we get to a point where there's enough interest in enough places that it warrants consideration, then the Board of Governors may well invoke a formal expansion process and we'll look at everything," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has said. "I don't think this is something you do on a piecemeal basis."
A person with knowledge of the league's plans, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, said reports of a possible four-team NHL expansion were news to him and "I don't believe it."
Bettman visited Seattle to meet with local elected leaders in May to get an update on the status of a possible new arena proposed by investor Chris Hansen.
Bettman has said Seattle's arena situation has to be settled before the NHL would consider expanding there. Legislation approved by city and county officials called for an NBA team to be placed in Seattle first before an NHL team unless the memorandum of understanding on the project is rewritten. Hansen has said his group does not have interest in being majority owners of an NHL team.
"Seattle seems to have the most number of people interested," Bettman said in June. "The fact is there's no building that's on the horizon. The person who controls the rights to build a building in Seattle is intent upon having an NBA team before he builds a building. Based on what's happened to date, and the fact that his partner has now bought a different franchise, I don't know that there's any prospect of a building in Seattle. It's nice that there's interest, but there's really not a whole lot for us to do with it."