Monday, June 22, 2009

Coyotes Auction August 5th. Only Local Owners Need Apply

The news is good for Coyotes fans tonight.

For starters, the NHL announced in a court filing and later confirmed in court that the Jerry Reinsdorf-John Kaites (-Tony Tavares?) group would be filing a bid to buy the team by the Friday deadline.

Then Judge Tom dropped a Baum-shell on Jim Balsillie’s bid to move the team to Canada by setting an August 5th auction date for owners who want to operate the team in Arizona. The Judge indicated that he likes the ease of selling the team locally, noting that there would be multiple legal complications to any offer that would move the team, especially if it was against the will of the NHL. Should no local owner be selected or qualified on the August 5th, a second auction would be held on September 10th that could potentially open the team to relocation. Think of this date as “if necessary” and hope that the game is never played.

The NHL has long held that a bid to purchase the team and keep it in Arizona was forthcoming and the news that the bid is imminent is good. Additionally, minority owner John Breslow has talked of offering a bid and there are still others who may be lurking. It remains to be seen if Breslow will enter the bidding by Friday’s deadline but one possibility is that he may join the Reinsdorf- Kaites (-Tavares?) group.

Negotiations with the City of Glendale will be following. The City expressed concern that August 5th was an aggressive deadline. After looking at the alternatives, that will seem like an eternity for them to close a deal.

Still to be revealed are the other members of the bidding group. There has been speculation that Hollywood producer (and aspiring NHL owner) Jerry Bruckheimer may be part of the action. We believe that Arte Moreno, the owner of baseball’s Los Angeles Angels and a Phoenix resident may also be a potential investor.

So now that the Reinsdorf- Kaites (-Tavares?) group is officially out of the water, many questions emerge. There was much speculation early on that Wayne Gretzky would not be retained in his current role if the ownership went in this direction. We’ll find out soon if that is the case. It’s unlikely that the iconic and ever-gracious Gretzky would simply be dismissed but he may be asked to take a lesser and lower paying role in the management of the team.

The player budget floor 2009-10 is also on the table. If Gary Bettman is directing Don Maloney with the understanding that NHL money was paying the bills, you can bet the Coyotes would be close to the floor minimum. With new money and ownership was coming to the table, that could mean a bigger player budget for next year. And with shopping season right around the corner, it’s fair to assume that this issue has already been vetted with the R-K-(T?) group.

And finally, changes in the off-ice management of the team may be on the table. If Tony Tavares is an active participant, that will likely signal some realignment of the front office. One can assume that based on the reports of high administrative expenses, Tony would be a tiger in holding down costs. Tavares has a reputation for being a hardnosed operator but his experience and marketing background could be a large asset to the franchise.

We’ll know a lot more later this week. For now, we’ll take solace in knowing that the cavalry is on the way, they are bringing a checkbook and they seem willing to dig in a make this franchise a success. And they are doing all of these things without dragging the team off to Hamilton.

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