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Carey Price sweeps NHL awards; league mulling expansion

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman cautioned that while the league is accepting applications for expansion, it’s not a guarantee that ‘expansion teams will be granted.’John Locher/AP

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman cautioned that while the league is accepting applications for expansion, it’s not a guarantee that ‘expansion teams will be granted.’

The NHL’s board of governors formally requested after a Wednesday meeting in Las Vegas that prospective owners place their bets on a franchise — be it through expansion or relocation.

The league has 30 teams now. By the fall of 2017, that number could increase.

“Over the past several years we have received numerous expressions of interest from potential markets and ownership groups that have indicated an interest in joining the National Hockey League,” commissioner Gary Bettman said. “The board decided today to examine those expressions more formally and also to welcome any other groups or markets that may be considering pursuit of an NHL team.”

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Specifically, the board authorized “the undertaking of a formal process to evaluate expressions of interest from markets and ownership groups interested in obtaining NHL clubs,” and requested that parties interested in an expansion franchise file applications by Aug. 10.

The league will make applications available starting on July 6.

RELATED: A CLOSER LOOK AT THE NHL’S SWITCH TO 3-ON-3 OVERTIME

Bettman clarified that “the fact that we are beginning this process does not necessarily mean that any expansion teams will be granted as a result of this process.” However, it was no coincidence that he made this announcement from Sin City.

In an expansion process that likely would add two franchises to balance the league’s two conferences at 16 teams apiece, Las Vegas is the leading contender to land a new team. An arena is under construction just off the strip. Prospective owner Billy Foley reportedly has taken deposits for more than 11,500 season tickets.

Bettman reportedly told the NHL board about interest from ownership groups in three cities: Las Vegas, Seattle and Quebec City. Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston, who first reported the NHL’s intentions to open a formal expansion process early Wednesday afternoon, said the minimum expansion fee the NHL will accept is $ 500 million and the earliest possible start date for that team would be the 2017-18 season.

Wednesday, the board also approved three major rule changes for the 2015-16 season: altering the overtime format to 3-on-3, adding a limited coach’s challenge, and forcing defensive centers to put sticks down first on all face-offs.

Reducing overtime from 4-on-4 is intended to prevent games from going to shootouts. The coach’s challenge applies specifically to scoring plays with potentially overlooked offsides or goalie interference infractions. The face-off change is intended to give the offensive center an edge in the hope of creating more scoring.

The NHL will release its full 2015-16 season schedule on Thursday at 10 a.m., but on Wednesday it gave fans a taste by releasing every team’s home opener. The regular season will open on Oct. 7. The Rangers will open that night in Chicago against the reigning Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks, followed by an Oct. 9 date in Columbus and an Oct. 10 home opener at the Garden against the Blue Jackets. They also will visit the Canadiens on Oct. 15 for Montreal’s home opener at the Bell Centre.

The NHL draft will take place Friday and Saturday nights in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Trade chatter is picking up entering the draft, especially after the league and NHL Players’ Association announced Tuesday that the salary cap ceiling will rise from $ 69 to $ 71.4 million for the upcoming season.

This is happening because the players voted to exercise the controversial five-percent escalator clause, which sacrifices more escrow withholdings from player paychecks during the season in the interest of growing the larger revenue pie.

The NHL was in Las Vegas to host its annual awards show at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Wednesday night.

Three members of the Rangers organization were finalists for awards, but neither Glen Sather (GM of the year), Alain Vigneault (Jack Adams Award), nor Henrik Lundqvist (NHL Foundation Player Award for community service) brought home hardware.

Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price stole the show by winning the Hart Trophy for NHL MVP as voted by media, the Vezina Trophy for top goaltender as voted by general managers, the Ted Lindsay Award for MVP voted by players; and he also shared the William M. Jennings Trophy with Chicago’s Corey Crawford as the goalies on the two NHL teams that allowed the fewest goals in the regular season (189).

Price, 27, who was also the starting goaltender on Team Canada’s Gold Medal team at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, is the first NHL goalie ever to win all four awards.

Here is the full list of award winners, and some notes on where Rangers fell in the voting. Note: Of the 12 major award-winners below, 10 are Canadian, one is Swedish (Karlsson) and one is Czech (Hudler).

Hart Trophy (MVP) : Carey Price, G, Montreal Canadiens

Norris Trophy (top defenseman) : Erik Karlsson, D, Ottawa Senators

Vezina Trophy (top goalie) : Carey Price, G, Montreal Canadiens

Calder Trophy (top rookie) : Aaron Ekblad, D, Florida Panthers

(The Rangers’ Kevin Hayes finished seventh in voting behind Ekblad, Mark Stone (Ott), Johnny Gaudreau (Calgary), Filip Forsberg (Nashville), John Klingberg (Dallas) and Mike Hoffman (Ottawa). Hayes received one fourth-place vote and 12 fifth-place votes)

Selke Trophy (top defensive forward) : Patrice Bergeron, C, Boston Bruins

Lady Byng Trophy (sportsmanship/gentlemanly conduct) : Jiri Hudler, C, Calgary Flames

Canadiens goalie Carey Price hauls in the hardware Wednesday in Las Vegas, winning the Jennings Trophy, the Vezina Trophy, the Ted Lindsay Trophy and the Hart Memorial Trophy.Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Canadiens goalie Carey Price hauls in the hardware Wednesday in Las Vegas, winning the Jennings Trophy, the Vezina Trophy, the Ted Lindsay Trophy and the Hart Memorial Trophy.

Masterton Trophy (perseverance, sportsmanship, dedication to hockey) : Devan Dubnyk, G, Minnesota Wild

NHL Foundation Player Award (community service) : Brent Burns, D, San Jose Sharks

(the Rangers’ Lundqvist was one of three finalists who were selected, along with the winner, by a judging panel)

Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award : Jonathan Toews, C, Chicago Blackhawks

Ted Lindsay Award (most outstanding player, voted by players) : Carey Price, G, Montreal Canadiens

Jack Adams Award (top coach) : Bob Hartley, Calgary Flames

(voting had Hartley with 237 points and 37 first-place votes; the Rangers’ Vigneault finished second with 121 points and 14 first place votes; Nashville’s Peter Laviolette finished third with 81 points and six first-place votes)

GM of the Year Award : Steve Yzerman, Tampa Bay Lightning

(voting had Yzerman with 80 points and nine first-place votes; the Rangers’ Sather finished second with 49 points and seven first-place votes; the Anaheim Duck’s Bob Murray finished third with 36 points and three first-place votes)

NHL First All-Star Team : Carey Price, G, Montreal Canadiens; Erik Karlsson, D, Ottawa Senators; P.K. Subban, D, Montreal Canadiens; Alex Ovechkin, LW, Washington Capitals; John Tavares, C, Islanders; Jakub Voracek, RW, Philadelphia Flyers.

NHL Second All-Star Team : Devan Dubnyk, G, Minnesota Wild; Drew Doughty, D, Los Angeles Kings; Shea Weber, D, Nashville Predators; Jamie Benn, LW, Dallas Stars; Sidney Crosby, C, Pittsburgh Penguins; Vladimir Tarasenko, RW, St. Louis Blues.

(the Rangers’ Rick Nash, despite arguably being the league MVP through 65 regular season games, finished third among voting for left wings. It went Ovechkin (708 points, 130 first-place votes), Benn (394 points, 20 first-place votes), Nash (213 points, two first-place votes) …. The Rangers’ Ryan McDonagh finished 13th in defensemen voting with 17 points and two first-place votes. Marc Staal garnered one point with one third-place vote … Lundqvist tied Tampa’s Ben Bishop for eighth place among goaltenders, with two points and two third-place votes)

NHL All-Rookie Team : Jake Allen, G, St. Louis Blues; Aaron Ekblad, D, Florida Panthers; John Klingberg, D, Dallas Stars, Filip Forsberg, F, Nashville Predators; Johnny Gaudreau, F, Calgary Flames; Mark Stone, F, Ottawa Senators.

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