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The bid by Chicago businessman Jerry Reinsdorf to buy the Phoenix Coyotes is dead and the city of Glendale has returned to the previously shunned Ice Edge Holdings group in a last-minute bid to keep the team in Phoenix.
The Glendale City Council is expected to file documents Friday morning accepting a new lease proposal from Ice Edge and agreeing to work exclusively with the group moving forward, sources close to the deal said.
Ice Edge CEO Anthony LeBlanc confirmed to ESPN.com late Thursday night he has met with city of Glendale officials a number of times this week in the hopes of reaching an agreement on a new lease proposal.
"However no decision has been reached by either side in regards to next steps, if any," LeBlanc said.
The desperation move comes less than a month after backroom politicking led to the city council rejecting Ice Edge's proposal in favor of Reinsdorf's, owner of the Chicago Bulls and Chicago White Sox. His group's proposal has now been abandoned. But the about-face by the city of Glendale does not ensure the team will remain in Phoenix.
Sources told ESPN.com the city must guarantee a number of conditions with the NHL, including covering operating losses incurred next season, before the league will consider agreeing to sell the team to Ice Edge. One source said the league wants conditions meant by the end of this week, although NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told ESPN.com that timeline is not accurate. It's believed Ice Edge was waiting for those conditions to be met before signing the agreement with the city.
The situation in Glendale remains fluid; if the city does not agree to the league's conditions, it is possible the NHL will instead move quickly to finalize a purchase agreement with Canadian billionaire David Thomson and move the team to Winnipeg. Sources tell ESPN.com there is a purchase agreement ready if the Glendale situation disintegrates.Daly would not comment to The Associated Press on reports about Reinsdorf's deal or a potential move to Winnipeg. However, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press that as of Friday, Reinsdorf was still in the mix. The individual requested anonymity because that information had not been authorized for release.
If the Coyotes end up moving to Winnipeg, it's unlikely the current tenants of the arena there, the AHL Manitoba Moose, could remain. There is a possibility Ice Edge would be interested in moving the AHL franchise to Thunder Bay, Ontario, where a number of executives are from.
"Ice Edge remains committed to our stated long-term goal of someday bringing professional hockey to Thunder Bay, however at this point in time it remains simply that, a long-term goal," LeBlanc said.
When the city refused to accept the first lease proposal from Ice Edge, it was assumed the bid to buy the team was dead. However, about a week ago, city officials reached out to Ice Edge and told them the Reinsdorf deal was not going to move forward.
A month ago, the city council voted not to endorse the Ice Edge proposal even though the group pledged not to move the team for the remaining 24 years on the city's lease with Jobing.com Arena. Instead, the council approved Reinsdorf's group's proposal, giving him the inside track to buy the team from the NHL. But there were immediate questions about the Reinsdorf proposal, including a clause that would have allowed him to sell and/or move the team at any point after five years.Although there have been questions about Ice Edge's ability to come up with funds for the purchase price, believed to be between $140 and $150 million, sources told ESPN.com funding is in place and will be secured as soon as the exclusivity documents were filed with the city of Glendale. Meanwhile, the team had a highly unexpected successful season on the ice, setting franchise records for wins and points and selling out the arena late this season. The Coyotes were eliminated by the Detroit Red Wings in the first round of the playoffs 4-3. The franchise never has turned a profit since moving from Winnipeg in 1996. Jerry Moyes, the owner who took the team into bankruptcy, said in court documents that he had lost some $300 million on the team. Scott Burnside covers the NHL for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.