While the Pens are free to walk away when their lease expires on June 30, 2007, I think that unless there isn't a plan in place for a new arena by then, they'll stay in Pittsburgh until 2008. If they move, they will move to that new city after the 2007-08 season. If they do move, it will not be to Hamilton or Hartford due to having to pay off other NHL clubs in the area. It will be one of the following cities:
Kansas City. With the Sprint Center opening next October, they have a brand new arena sitting there practically unused. The big question is whether hockey can be successful there the second time around.
Oklahoma City. They have a fairly new arena in place, and with rumors of the Seattle Supersonics moving to OKC
, it may be a good place to put a team at. The city was among the ones that tried to get an NHL team during the last expansion period.
Houston. Largest TV
market without an NHL team. Has a suitable arena in place as well (Toyota Center). The only potential problem involves the Houston Aeros of the AHL. The Aeros are owned by the Minnesota Wild and something would have to be worked out there.
Portland. With no NHL team between San Jose and Vancouver (B.C.), Portland may be a good place to put a team. During the Pens bankruptcy that led to Mario buying the team, it was rumored Paul Allen would buy the team and move them to Portland. While Seattle may be the bigger market, they lack an NHL quality arena.
Winnipeg. If the Pens were to move to Canada, this is where they'd move to. While the MTS Centre only seats 15,000 for hockey, one could bet that unlike at many NHL arenas, it would be sold out every night.
Las Vegas. The dark horse pick. The only suitable venue in town is the Thomas and Mack Center, and it isn't ideally set up for hockey. While the Kings have played preseason games at the MGM Grand Arena, is it really a suitable arena for regular season hockey? So unless one of the casino companies decides to build an arena or the City builds one downtown, there isn't a chance of them luring an NHL team.