Quebec City and Las Vegas are now at the forefront of the NHL expansion movement.

Owners in those two cities were the only ones to submit expansion applications before Monday's deadline, the league has confirmed.

The NHL said it received requests from and sent applications to 16 different groups or individuals.

Quebecor submitted a bid to bring the Nordiques back to Quebec City, while Bill Foley applied for a Las Vegas franchise.

Ownership groups in the Toronto and Seattle areas considered applying but ultimately did not.

The NHL said the intent of the expansion process was to "set realistic guideposts to distinguish between bona fide expressions of interest ... from those indications of potential interest which were, at best, merely hopes or aspirations."

"Apparently, only Mr. Foley and Quebecor have the confidence in their ability to secure an arena and suitable ownership capability to move forward with this process," the league said.

Quebecor manages the Videotron Centre, which will host a pre-season game between the Montreal Canadiens and Pittsburgh Penguins in September.

A new arena is under construction on the Las Vegas strip and is set to open in the spring of 2016. Foley's Hockey Vision Las Vegas ticket drive collected almost 14,000 deposits, which helped pave the way for the city to be a strong candidate.

"NHL application filed, deposit wired," Foley said on Twitter. "One step closer folks," Foley tweeted."

The NHL intends to focus "exclusively" on Las Vegas and Quebec now that the applications have been submitted.

There are two more stages of the expansion process, which goes until Aug. 10.

A franchise is expected to cost upwards of US$500 million. The application fee was $10 million, including $2 million nonrefundable.

Expansion would be for the 2017-18 season, commissioner Gary Bettman said last month.

Las Vegas would help fix current conference imbalance of 16 teams in the East and 14 in the West. Quebec City would present a challenge, though Bettman has said geography would not be a determining factor on expansion.