The NHL is going to open up it's formal expansion process within the next few hours. This is not unexpected news if you have been following the happenings in Las Vegas for the last while or if you know of the rumblings out of Seattle for the last few months. Expansion teams are extremely hard to run though. They get cast-offs from other teams and have to parlay those players into an actual NHL roster, which can be difficult. Expansion is good news for players because it allows for players who have been kept in the minors to have a real chance at playing in the NHL. The NHL can make it easier for the expansion teams though and they should if they want the markets to succeed beyond the honeymoon period.
The NHL could award a franchise to a market and allow the franchise to start operations immediately. That means they participate in the NHL draft and can start signing free agents from Europe and the NCAA before they actually have a team in the NHL. This would give the team an opportunity to accumulate more talent before entering the league and have a better base to build a team from. It would also allow them to start building a prospect base before actually having a NHL team.
The NHL should also be willing to waive the hockey personnel compensation rule for the expansion team(s) as they will need all the assets they can get to build up some sort of prospect base. The NHL should actually get rid of team to team compensation and instead have compensation picks dispersed by the NHL to the teams who had executives hired away right before the team who hired them picks. That would mean that there would be an influx of compensation picks awarded, but that NHL teams would not be afraid to hire away talent and teams that are losing off-ice staff gets compensated. It would be a win-win and would allow a teams to constantly improve their off-ice brain trust as they see fit without punishing them for doing so.
There is enough talent in hockey for the NHL to support more teams. The struggles of expansion teams is well documented though. Expansion teams work if there is solid ownership and a strong base of hockey minds. This is apparent when you look at expansion teams that were successful versus those that failed. Take for example, the Atlanta Thrashers. Ownership was never strong in Atlanta with the Atlanta Spirit ownership group not wanting the Thrashers at all and constant in-fighting making it near impossible for the team to succeed. These are circumstances that the NHL can try to protect against by vetting all prospective owners properly. This means running far away Maloof brothers.
Expansion can succeed in the NHL as it is today. It can probably be more successful if the NHL makes it easier for a front office and coaches to be acquired and for more time for a prospect system to be developed. The NHL needs to ensure that any new franchise has owners that will not try to screw over a market with greed. Expansion is currently very hit and miss in the NHL, so the NHL should be trying to do everything to make it succeed in the future. The NHL can make this work, if they choose to.