Gila River Arena, home of the Arizona Coyotes. (Photo: Getty Images)

The NHL has moved forward with its plans to welcome a 32nd franchise into the fray as Seattle looks poised to enter the league by the 2020-21 season. That could be bad news for the Arizona Coyotes, though. 

While the Seattle expansion group unveiled its plans to renovate Key Arena and build a state-of-the-art training center, there will have to be some changes that come with their arrival. 

Given their location in the very northwest of the United States, the Seattle franchise can only be placed in the Pacific Division, which will force the NHL to move one of the existing teams from that division to the Western Conference's Central Division. At the moment, the Central Division has just seven teams compared to the eight in the Pacific.

The Coyotes are expected to be the team that switches divisions, according to Chris Johnston of Sportsnet. 

 

It's a shrewd but necessary move in order to bring balance to the league as every division will now have eight teams. The Coyotes though will lose their three closest geographical rivals in the Vegas Golden Knights, Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks. 

They'll be ushered into a division in which the closest team would be the Colorado Avalanche, which is 821 miles away from Glendale, AZ. That would be the Coyotes' only Central Division rival that is within 1,000 miles of the franchise and immediately put the struggling team at a disadvantage. 

The Coyotes have been losing money for years as a franchise that hasn't made the playoffs since 2012 still searches for a site to build their new arena as their lease at Gila River Arena is up after the 2018-19 season. On top of that, owner Andrew Barroway announced plans to sell the team over the summer.

Could the Coyotes be on their way out?

With division realignment on its way, it looks like the most logical option for the Coyotes is skipping town... and the state. 

Houston has been a sudden major player in obtaining an NHL franchise. Since Tilman Fertitta bought the Houston Rockets in 2017, he's expressed a desire to bring an NHL franchise to Houston where it would play its home games at Toyota Center, which would house 17,800 fans for hockey.  

The move would quickly create an in-state rivalry with the Dallas Stars while moving the Coyotes almost 1,200 miles East and much closer to Central Division teams like the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues. 

The Coyotes are already a relocated team as they were the original Winnipeg Jets from 1979-1996.

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