There are two nagging storylines for the NHL right now: the ownership headaches that exist in non-traditional markets and the growing issue of concussions.
The worst example of the former issue must be that of the Phoenix Coyotes, a franchise whose future has been in an expensive holding pattern for nearly two full seasons.
ESPN’s Scott Burnside covered some of the ins-and-outs in the latest update on the situation, which revolves around the fact that the City of Glendale hasn’t been able to sell public bonds that were crucial for Matt Hulsizer to become the new owner. Honestly, the situation is a big mess, as the city is worried about a lawsuit that might come from the sale of bonds while the NHL admits that the franchise will miss yet another deadline to get the sale done.
We won’t bombard you with the murky details, but the point is that the sale (or lack thereof) could create a domino effect with the other teams in the league facing the possibility of relocation. Burnside explains that if the Coyotes move to Winnipeg, that could cause problems for the Atlanta Thrashers, a franchise trying to deal with the possibly equal ownership mess that is the Atlanta Spirit. He points out that if Atlanta is forced to move and the Coyotes already take up shop in Winnipeg, the Thrashers will need to consult another popular relocation destination such as Quebec City or Kansas City.
(Note: this isn’t to say that the Coyotes or Thrashers are guaranteed to move by any means, but it’s illogical to ignore the possibilities.)
So long story short, the Coyotes sale is still a dispiriting mess for the league.
But beyond the big picture talk of the team’s (and other teams’) long-term future, there’s also the subject of Monday’s trade deadline. Even after a tough loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Coyotes are still ranked fifth in the Western Conference. Instead of echoing the Buffalo Sabres’ timely completed sale to Terry Pegula, the inability to transition the team into Hulsizer’s hands means that Phoenix will be extremely limited during the February 28th feeding frenzy.
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.
Ouch. Burnside points out that if the team is sold to Hulsizer, one of the new owner’s chief goals would be to repair the Yotes’ relationship with its market in Arizona. Considering how much the team benefited from acquiring Wojtek Wolski and Lee Stempniak last season, it’s hard to argue with the point that making deadline deals could have allowed the team to at least improve their odds of a deep playoff run while pleasing hardcore fans in the process.
Instead, Maloney must sit on the sidelines … much like his potential new owner, the city of Winnipeg and the Thrashers franchise to boot.