Oilers ownership group in Seattle
EDMONTON, Alberta -- With plans for a new arena in doubt, the Edmonton Oilers say they are keeping their options open.
Oilers owner Daryl Katz, team president Patrick LaForge and president of hockey operations Kevin Lowe were in Seattle on Monday for meetings about a possible relocation to the city.
The Oilers said in a statement that they still hope to reach a deal with Edmonton on a new arena. But with talks at an impasse and the team's lease at aging Rexall Place set to expire in 2014, the Oilers have started to look elsewhere.
"As the City of Edmonton is aware, the Katz Group has been listening to proposals from a number of potential NHL markets for some time," the statement read. "After more than four years of trying to secure an arena deal and with less than 24 months remaining on the Oilers' lease at Rexall Place, this is only prudent and should come as no surprise."
The team added it would not comment on discussions with other potential markets.
Former Oiler star Wayne Gretzky was a guest of Katz in Seattle Monday, but said he was not involved in talks.
"I'm 100 percent not involved with the Oilers or the NHL," Gretzky told ESPN.com via email Tuesday. "I went to watch a game and went home right after. I'm very confident that the Katz group and the city of Edmonton will get a deal done that would keep the Oilers in Edmonton where they belong."
The visit by Oilers brass came the same day that the Seattle City Council approved hedge-fund manager Chris Hansen's plan for a $490 million arena that both sides hope will be home to an NBA and NHL team.
Seattle's hockey market is limited to the Western Hockey League's Thunderbirds and the Everett Silvertips, which are 25 miles north. The city hasn't had a professional team since the Metropolitans, who won a Stanley Cup in 1917, were disbanded in 1924.
The Oilers and the City of Edmonton had agreed on plans for a proposed $475 million arena that would begin construction early next year.
But the arena and the Oilers' future in Edmonton were thrown into doubt earlier this month when the team told the Edmonton city council it wanted millions of dollars in new concessions from taxpayers.
That prompted Mayor Stephen Mandel to ask Katz to appear before the council in a public session to explain the new demands, but the Oilers owner declined.
The original deal for a new 18,400-seat arena in Edmonton was agreed to last October and was to be funded mostly by taxpayers.
Katz has said he wants a public subsidy deal similar to the one given to NHL teams in Winnipeg and Pittsburgh.
Forbes ranks the Oilers in the middle of NHL teams with a value of $212 million.
Katz, who bought the Oilers for $200 million, says he has been losing money every year due mainly to the arena deal. The Oilers, unlike other NHL teams, receive very little non-hockey money such as concession revenues.
Information from ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun and The Associated Press was used in this report.
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