This is the most obvious candidate. Rumors have linked the NHL to Houston for years. The market is attractive as can be, with one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the country – even more so than Phoenix, by the way. Billionaire Tilman Fertitta, owner of the NBA Rockets, dreams of an NHL franchise. In a 2019 local radio interview, he said he had “every month” discussions with circuit representatives. The Toyota Center, home of the Rocket, can host an NHL team. The defunct Eros, of the American League, also played their local games there. A move from the Coyotes to Houston would keep the Central Division balanced and create a natural rivalry with the Dallas Stars. We almost come to wonder why it hasn’t happened yet.

After seeing the Flames (1972-1980) and the Thrashers (1999-2011) go, does Atlanta deserve a third chance? There’s nothing sexy about the destination for NHL hockey fans, but commissioner Gary Bettman confirmed last March that a group had expressed interest in bringing high-level hockey back to Georgia – our apologies in advance if the Gladiators public, in the ECHL, is offended. The circuit will not hesitate to at least listen to an offer from one of the largest markets in North America, which already has NBA, NFL and Major League Baseball franchises. An NHL team could base themselves at the home of the NBA Hawks, which is also the former Thrashers arena. It has also been renovated since the departure of the latter.

A left-field candidacy that had, until recently, little echo at our end of the continent. However, Ryan Smith, current owner of the Utah Jazz, could not be more serious. Just a few days ago, on Twitter, he indicated that the process to attract an NHL team was “in progress” [in motion]. At the end of March, the Salt Lake Tribune reported that Smith, who also co-owns Real Salt Lake, MLS, had dinner with Gary Bettman in New York. “The NHL is interested in him,” Sportsnet said at the time. The Utah capital seems to have a real desire to position itself as a sports city, while another group is trying to acquire a major league baseball franchise. However, we can wonder if the NHL will be satisfied with the 14,000 seats of the Vivint Arena, which would immediately become the smallest amphitheater on the circuit. Will we want to embark on another melodrama of a team without a major arena? To be continued.

Kansas City was Quebec before Quebec: the name pronounced at each mention of a relocation, but which ultimately resembles the scarecrow that is brandished to fuel an escalation. With an arena ready for 15 years, the town of former Scouts (1974-1976) appears to be a real possibility, however, which would solidify the league’s presence in the Midwest. The Chiefs (NFL) and Royals (Major Baseball) are already confirming KC’s status as an enviable sports destination, and the city will host soccer World Cup games in 2026. Not the most obvious bid, but it certainly cannot be ignored.

As soon as an NHL franchise coughs, Quebec raises its head. There was momentary talk of relocating the Carolina Hurricanes there, even the Ottawa Senators. The fate of the Arizona Coyotes has been scrutinized for 15 years. From the first drafts of the Videotron Center, at the turn of the 2010s, the return of the Nordiques was in the sights. The arena has been ready since 2015. The Canadiens have played exhibition games there, and there is currently a huge craze for the Remparts. However, over the years, it became clear that the love between the Old Capital and the NHL was one-sided. In 2016, the league rejected Quebec City’s bid in favor of an expansion to Las Vegas. In 2018, when a franchise was awarded to Seattle, Quebec never seemed to be in the game. In 2021, the Legault government appointed a minister responsible for the return of professional hockey. Despite everything, no sign seems to point to the announcement that the citizens have been waiting for since the departure of their Nordics in 1995. We cannot, however, not include the city in the list of potential candidates. But that is, alas, what she risks remaining: a candidate.

Despite all the hints of an imminent end, the Coyotes should never be considered dead until Gary Bettman confirms the death. The commissioner of the NHL has always defended the franchise against all odds, despite its multiple financial setbacks. He was part of all the fights, all the grievances with the public authorities. We cannot, in these circumstances, assume that he has given up. A return to Glendale seems out of the question, but plans B are not non-existent, wrote Wednesday morning the reporter Craig Morgan, possibly the person best informed on the file through the NHL. The latter wonders in particular if an association with the Phoenix Suns, of the NBA, would not allow a return of the Coyotes to the city center of the metropolis, although this idea seems more or less plausible. Morgan also mentions the name of Mesa, a neighboring town of Tempe, although a relocation to that side would require the construction of a new arena. Could the NHL governors get their ears fired into agreeing to the Coyotes embarking on a new real estate adventure? History has taught us that nothing is impossible. But the chances of such a scenario happening suddenly seem very, very slim.