LAS VEGAS - The NHL is officially exploring expansion.

Commissioner Gary Bettman said Wednesday that the league is opening an expansion review process to consider whether to add new franchises to its 30-team league. Bettman cited Las Vegas, Seattle and Quebec City as the markets that have expressed the most serious interest.

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The Board of Governors decided that the NHL will take formal applications for a new franchise starting July 6 and closing Aug. 10. The league hasn't made decisions on a timeline, any terms of expansion or the number of clubs to be added.

The NHL doesn't anticipate adding any teams before the 2017-18 season, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly says.

Bettman indicated that an expansion fee would be at least $500 million to be distributed among the existing clubs.