Delay of Coyotes sale has cascading effects

February, 25, 2011
2/25/11
1:37
PM ET
The trade deadline isn't the only deadline looming on the NHL landscape.

The City of Glendale, never quite on the same page as anyone else when it comes to getting the job done, failed to begin selling bonds to raise money that would go to Chicago businessman Matthew Hulsizer as part of an agreement on a new lease for Jobing.com Arena. That bond sale must go through before the lease agreement with Hulsizer is finalized, and that deal must be completed before the league will close on its sale of the Phoenix Coyotes to Hulsizer.

Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told ESPN.com Friday that the league has established no deadline for the sale of the bonds and multiple sources familiar with the deal insist they expect the deal will close, just not as soon as had been anticipated.

One of the reasons for the delay in the bond sales, which were expected to be completed by this week, is the specter of a lawsuit by watchdog group the Goldwater Institute.

Goldwater threatened legal action because the deal may contravene state rules on subsidizing private businesses. If the monies committed by the City of Glendale are greater than what they would receive through parking revenues and other monies that would go to the city as part of the deal, it would break state rules.

It's not clear whether Goldwater will take the municipality to court if the deal is consummated.

While the NHL may not have imposed a deadline the reality remains that the NHL does not have infinite patience with the City of Glendale.

Far from it in fact.

The NHL has a number of ownership balls in the air and a resolution in Arizona, one way or another, is believed to have a direct impact on how the NHL proceeds in other markets.

If the bond sale does not begin in a timely fashion, the NHL at some point will move to exercise its right to relocate the team. If that happens, sources tell ESPN.com that the $25 million the City of Glendale committed to the NHL to cover operating losses this season would be lost, as would the anchor tenant in an arena built with government funds. That is why most believe a deal will get done.

But if the league does move to relocate the Coyotes to Winnipeg, it's possible that would affect the future of the Atlanta Thrashers.

Although there have been a number of parties examining the ownership situation in Atlanta, it's believed the NHL is also looking at a possible relocation scenario with the Thrashers if a viable ownership group cannot be found to either invest in the team or buy it outright from current owners the Atlanta Spirit Group and keep it in Atlanta.

If the Coyotes end up in Winnipeg, however, obviously the league will have to look at another alternative like Quebec City, Kansas City or any of the other locales that pop up as possible destinations for displaced NHL franchises.

If the Coyote deal does get done in Phoenix that would open the door to the Thrashers moving to Winnipeg as early as next season, pending a new group keeping the team in Atlanta.

One of the major drawbacks to keeping the team in Atlanta is the lack of any kind of subsidies a la Glendale that would be attractive to potential buyers.

At this stage, possible investors are being vetted but no offers have been made for the team.

Finally, back to Phoenix for a final thought.

Even if the deal does close with Hulsizer, one cannot help but bemoan yet another opportunity squandered by local politicians who seem to stagger from one crisis to the next vis a vis the Coyotes' situation.

By failing to complete the bond sale and thus see a smooth transfer of ownership by this weekend, the team missed an opportunity for Hulsizer to commit more money to the team's budget and allow GM Don Maloney to add players by the 3 p.m. EST trade deadline Monday.

That will not happen.

Now Maloney will be hamstrung by his league-imposed budget and would essentially be able to add salary only if he is able to shed the same amount of salary.

The ramifications of missing this opportunity are numerous.

First, one of the key elements of Hulsizer's ownership will be repairing a relationship with fans that has suffered through the ownership vacuum and the uncertainty over the team's future. By adding players at the deadline and strengthening the team's push for a second straight playoff berth, Hulsizer would have been able to establish himself quickly as being committed to the team.

Secondly, adding players could give the Coyotes a better chance at a longer playoff run and that would benefit both the franchise and the City of Glendale.

Instead, fans wait once again to see if the sands will run out on the Coyotes' NHL hourglass.

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