Two days after the CWHL stunningly announced on social media that it will be ceasing operations effective May 1, the NWHL announced its board approved expansion into Canada — Toronto and Montreal, specifically — in 2019-20. On a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, commissioner Dani Rylan also added that the NHL has now become one of the largest financial sponsors of the NWHL.“It’s always tough when a women’s sports team or league fails . . . We believe that there is a business here [and] we can’t wait to continue to build our brand, our business, and the sport of professional women’s hockey,” Rylan explained. “There’s definitely enough talent out there [for two leagues] and we want to make sure that players have a place to play this fall. We have approval to move on two markets, but that doesn’t mean we’re stopping there.” BREAKING: Furthermore, the @NHL has made a commitment to the @NWHL that now makes them one of the league’s biggest financial sponsors.The conversation began as soon as the news of the CWHL folding broke, @DaniRylan spoke to Gary Bettman yesterday.— Mike Murphy (@DigDeepBSB) April 2, 2019The moves are swift, especially the NHL’s involvement, considering on Sunday afternoon the NHL’s deputy commissioner Bill Daly told The AP, “We recognize the importance of women having options to play the game at the professional level. If those options were to become unavailable in the future, we would certainly consider doing what’s necessary to fill that void.”NWHL, NHL respond to CWHL folding, ‘fans in Canada deserve professional women’s hockey’According to Rylan, she met with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman on Monday after reaching him out to him earlier in the day. While no further details about the NHL’s new commitment were discussed, Rylan did note the move could result in NWHL players seeing a pay increase sometime in the near future. She revealed on the call, which had been scheduled prior to Sunday’s news, that the league was already in discussions about increasing player salaries before the NHL’s new investment.“As our revenues grow we expect to increase our players salaries as well . . . That is something that we continue to explore today, [just as we were] last week,” she added. The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun later reported on Twitter that, “The NHL is going from paying $50k to each women’s league to now paying $100k for the one league remaining, according to a source.”Dani Rylan and the @NWHL are more confident now than ever before in their business structure (for profit).She reached out to Bettman on Sunday and they met on Sunday. They had been talking “fairly frequently” before the last few days and the @NHL’s increased investment.— Mike Murphy (@DigDeepBSB) April 2, 2019The NWHL is having ongoing conversations with stakeholders of two of the CWHL’s franchises, Les Canadiennes de Montreal and the Toronto Furies. It appears that there’s a real chance the NWHL will absorb those existing franchises rather than creating new teams. Rylan also clarified that there will be no restricted free agency during the 2019 offseason, allowing players to sign where they choose. This should help ease former CWHL players into roster spots, as the players tend to sign in locations where they can also maintain full-time jobs.Today’s news has Rylan feeling confident about the NWHL’s “for profit” model which differed from the CWHL’s not for profit model.“We are watching our model come to life,” she expressed. “We’ve believed in this model since we launched on day one. The stronger our teams and our league grows, the easier it is to say that this is the model that works. We’re taking steps in the right direction to watch [it] come to life.”SN Q&A: Inferno GM Kristen Hagg on CWHL ceasing operations, ‘I’m not just folding up my chair and packing it in’ With the CWHL’s plans to fold, the NWHL’s offseason plans immediately changed. While the schedule will be expanded to 24 games for the 2019-20 regular season, team expansion which has always been rumored — and may still happen further over the summer — happened a lot quicker than expected.”It changed immediately. It was a shock to us, the news that came out on Sunday,” Rylan said. “We were collaborating with the Canadian Women’s Hockey League about what it could look like to bring our two leagues together. It was news to us, [the] same that it was for the players, GMs, and media as well. It changed our offseason plans, but with change comes opportunity. Even in the last 48 hour,s we’ve had interest from new expansion markets, new sponsors, new partners. Our board is stepping up.”Now more eyes than ever will be on the upcoming NWHL season — the fifth in the league’s history.