Let's Start with the Franchise...
According to Gary Bettman, at least 6 groups have expressed interest in buying the Coyotes. Of course, Canadian media gadfly Davis Shoalts has already suggested that "six" groups exist only in Bettman's imagination.
We know three -- The Ice Edge group that has been working on the purchase for several months, Howard Sokolowski and David Cynamon (the owners of the Canadian Football League Toronto Argonauts) and a group of largely local investors headed up by Canadian businessman Steve Stotland. We think the others might include the Jerry Reinsdorf/John Kaites group that bid on the team this summer and Calgary billionaire Brett Wilson, who has kicked the tires on a number of NHL teams.
Stotland is the latest to go high profile and he's made some news along the way. His "group" which is yet to be publicly identified, is said to include a large number of Arizona investors. He also slipped that his group is the only group that has significant Arizona interests. That's good news if he has the wherewithal to pull this off but not the best news for Coyote fans. Apparently this summer's bloodbath has turned off any potential investors as well as fans.
Stotland reportedly bid for the Montreal Canadians both in 2000 and 2009 when they were sold to and by George Gillett. He was a player in the 2000 bidding before Gillett swooped in and bought the team but was not considered a finalist in 2009 when the Habs were sold back to the Molson family.
The Ice Edge group has been deep in discussions with the City of Glendale about a lease but you get the feeling that the league is looking past them for other alternatives. The Saskatoon option as well as questions about the depth of their pockets seem to have slow tracked their offer.
The Kaites/Reinsdorf group has been quiet but there's a sense that John Kaites is still looking to be a part of the solution here. He's well connected with Glendale and could end being a facilitator for any of the groups looking at the team. And current Coyote minority owner John Breslow, who is part of the Ice Edge group, could also end up as a piece of another group.
A new lease is necessary for any group that buys the team. Glendale is going to have to give ground in some way, shape and form. One would assume that whatever lease changes that are being discussed would be made available to all groups. Of course, nothing in this entire episode has gone to script so you can't be so sure.
At the rate the Coyotes are burning through cash. it's incumbent for the NHL to get the team off their books as soon as possible. Gary Bettman had the support of the Governors to make sure the league controlled their own destiny. At a couple of million a month, that support is perishable. If he can't find a viable solution to sell the team soon, the league members could start pressuring him to look elsewhere.
Tickets? We Got Lower Bowl Tickets for $25...
Stack 'em deep and sell 'em cheap. Good marketing move. And perhaps a little overdue.
Get people into the seats to sample the product. Stop treating this as a business as usual situation.
The Coyotes need to do this and much more to bring back fans. We're surprised that the team hasn't hosted an open house this fall with a team practice, autograph sessions and ticket availability. And much more to excite and activate the base.
In this day and age, marketing needn't be an expensive proposition. Social media tools like facebook and twitter allow organizations to communicate offers and incentives quickly. The Coyotes need to pull out all the stops to get butts in seats, even if it's at a severe discount.
And Finally Some Roster Moves In The Works?...
As we get to the quarter pole of the season, the team is easy to grade; Goaltending -- A-. Defense -- B. Offense -- meh.
Nothing has changed. The Coyotes need scoring. It will be very, very hard for them to hang tough in the ultra competitive Western Conference unless scoring deficiencies are addressed. The Coyotes are 24th in the league in goals and on pace to score 197 goals. That's not going to be good enough.
Of course, there are 25 teams in the NHL looking for scoring. The key is finding the right players at the right price.
But the Coyotes have two very valuable assets -- cap space (they are barely above the salary cap floor right now) and future assets including Calgary's 1st round draft pick.
Numerous sources including ESPN's highly regarded hockey blogger Pierre LeBrun have indicated that Coyote Peter Mueller is available in the right deal. There may also be a glut on defense when Kurt Sauer is cleared to return to the ice. Good showings by rookies Sami Lepisto and Dave Schlemko may have given the team the confidence to move a veteran defenseman.
We're not so sure that the time is right to move Mueller but keep in mind he'll be an RFA this summer and in line for a larger second NHL contract. And he's been a shell of his productive 2007-08 player since the end of his rookie year.
Here are two possible targets for GMDM;
Jonathan Cheechoo (Ottawa)has been awful after his off season move in the Dany Heatley trade. He can score, not the 56 goals he got three years ago as Joe Thornton's side car, but he's a skilled 20-30 goal player. The price may be discounted as he struggles to regain his scoring touch.
Niklas Hagman (Toronto) could be an intriguing possibility. He's signed for the next two years at a reasonable $3MM and he's already got 11 goals this year. Hagman is coming off 27 and 22 goal seasons and he's got history (hopefully good history) with Dave Tippett in Dallas. He's available and the rebuilding Leafs would be a good trading partner for the Coyotes. Word from TO is that the Leafs would move Hagman in the right deal, perhaps for a player and a draft pick.
There will be more possibilities as the season progresses. Carolina has pretty much dropped out of sight and veteran scorer Ray Whitney might be available. And if the New York Islanders slide, Doug Weight might be available. The trick for Don Maloney will be moving sooner rather than later because the Coyotes need is not going to be solved by tweaking. There's always hope for internal improvement but reinforcements are still necessary. And soon.