Since the league's beginnings in 1917, the NHL has welcomed 36 teams. Of those, thirteen have relocated to a new city, eleven have changed their team name while remaining in the same city, and six have fallen on financial hard times and folded their operations.
The chart below shows the history of NHL expansion by year, team name and the expansion fee levied on the buyer by the league.
* Team was victim of NHL Renaming
^ Team was victim of NHL Relocation
# Team was victim of NHL Contraction
As indicated by the footnotes above, several teams have endured change in the form of renaming, relocation and contraction. The ordering of the symbols indicates the chronology of these events. The number of NHL teams and regular season games played by year may be found here.
The first five members of the NHL in 1917 gained admission without having to pay an expansion fee. Since then, all teams have paid a fee to join the league. Hovering between $12,000 and $15,000 in the 1920s, expansions fees jumped to $2 million in 1967 and tripled three years later in 1970 to $6 million where they remained (save surcharges to other teams and leagues) through the remainder of the decade.
After a twelve year span of a 21 team NHL, expansion began again in 1991 with fees 7.5 times higher than those paid by teams entering in the 1970s, ultimately ending up over 13.3 times by 2000. Current franchise valuations estimate the value of NHL teams ranging from $130 million (St. Louis Blues) to $1 billion (Toronto Maple Leafs).
Despite the escalating costs of purchasing a NHL team through expansion, the inflation calculator shows these teams to be more than holding their value in the terms of purchase price. This does not account for the annual operating losses for most NHL teams, which in the case of the Phoenix Coyotes resulted in losses of $54 million in 2009.
Last year the Glendale counsel voting 4-3 to keep the Coyotes for five more years, dashing the hopes of Seattle or Quebec City acquiring the club through relocation. Earlier today, however, Commissioner Bettman confirmed the Board of Governors were accepting expansion proposals beginning July 6, 2015 through August 10, 2015. Seattle, Quebec City and Las Vegas are considered frontrunners for the privilege to pay an estimated $500 million fee to host the NHL's next franchise, more than six times the amount paid by expansion owners 15 years ago.
It appears existing owners will soon ring the expansion fee cash register again and grow this arguably diluted 30 team league as early as 2017.
* See also History of NHL Contraction.
* See also History of NHL Relocation.
* See also History of NHL Team Renaming.