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Saturday, May 21, 2011
Thrashers relocation may have ripple effect

By Pierre LeBrun

Rick Dudley doesn't know what his future is if the Atlanta Thrashers move to Winnipeg, but he hasn't devoted too much time trying to figure it out, either.

"I don't have any control over that part of things," the Thrashers GM told ESPN.com Saturday. "Right now we have a draft coming up and meetings coming up, and obviously, we have a team to run. That's what I'm focused on. Of course, all the staff and all the scouts are nervous, but I told them we can only focus on the task at hand."

Dudley is scouting at the Memorial Cup Canadian junior championship with his staff this weekend. He is one of the game's great talent evaluators, and it is unknown what his future entails if or when True North Entertainment takes over the team, which could be as early as next week. Dudley did sign a four-year extension in January, which doesn't kick in until next season.

Meanwhile, there were more talks Friday between the Thrashers' ownership and True North Entertainment. But sources on both sides insisted to ESPN.com Friday night that a deal was still not quite done. One issue that still needs resolution requires a letter from the bank, and banks are closed Monday in Canada for Victoria Day.

Expect the purchase price to be around $170 million, which includes the relocation fee.

Talks didn't begin between Atlanta and Winnipeg until last weekend when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman gave both sides the green light to commence the process, a source told ESPN.com. They were waiting for the Coyotes' situation to figure itself out first.
Once an agreement is finally reached, the deal requires full NHL Board of Governors treatment at a June 21 meeting in New York. There would be two votes on the table:

  1. The ownership transfer, which requires a three-fourths membership vote for approval.
  2. The relocation, which requires only a majority (16 votes).


And by the way, even if the Thrashers and True North agree to a deal, the board of governors and the league reserve the right to explore the possibility of keeping the team in Atlanta if a local interest suddenly pops up in the wake of the Winnipeg announcement. It's highly unlikely in my opinion, but it's a right the league has nonetheless.

Realignment would very likely wait another year, meaning Winnipeg would play one season in the Southeast Division, because the league believes all board members deserve a say on the matter. All kinds of scenarios are in play. This might be a chance to do a massive overhaul of the league's divisions and conferences, not just switch one team with another, a source told ESPN.com Friday.

Meanwhile, Thrashers captain Andrew Ladd was close to signing a long-term extension near the end of the regular season, but the two sides weren't able to close the gap. Now that's obviously on hold because of the franchise situation. But people shouldn't read into it that he doesn't want to play in Winnipeg. It simply was a case that both sides couldn't close the deal.