Report: NHL prepared to take over Devils

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Unless a buyer can be found, the New Jersey Devils are “likely to be taken over” by the NHL, according to a report by Forbes.

According to three sources, the NHL does not want the Devils to file for bankruptcy like the Phoenix Coyotes did in 2009. The Coyotes were recently sold for $170 million after going through an arduous lease renegotiation with the city of Glendale that kept taxpayers, players and fans in limbo for over three years.

Instead, the NHL would fund and operate the team while it sought a buyer. The Devils owe the league roughly $25 million and their payroll for the start of 2013-14 season is projected to be around $55 million.

The NHL, of course, just finally washed its hands of the Phoenix Coyotes. Will the league have to run another team now? There have been so many reports about the financial state of the Devils that it’s hard to say.

It was less than a year ago that owner Jeff Vanderbeek was reportedly able to refinance the franchise’s substantial debt and buy out his partners.

“Our future is now secure and we can be confident of continued on-ice success,” Vanderbeek said in a statement in January.

Apparently, that assertion was a tad optimistic.

As we passed along yesterday, the ownership group of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers – led by investment banker and majority partner Joshua Harris — is reportedly interested in buying the Devils.

More from today’s Forbes report:

The Devils have $230 million of debt and team owner Jeff Vanderbeek missed the first payment on a recently restructured bank loan. The team’s annual debt payment is around $15 million a year and in the past the Devils have already used prepayments of future revenue streams to pay bills. Andrew Barroway was poised to buy the hockey team and operating rights to the Prudential Center, but withdrew his offer within the past two weeks after getting a closer look at the team’s books.

Neither the Devils nor the NHL would offer a comment to Forbes on the situation.