Jim Balsillie spokesman Bill Walker and Lawyer Richard Rodier held a press conference this morning and made some very interesting points.
1. Jim Balsillie hasn’t given up his quest to move the Coyotes to Hamilton and it is likely that they will submit another bid to purchase the team with a different timeline. No details were given and a lot will depend on consultation with Jerry Moyes and his lawyers.
2. Of the four ‘expressions of interest’ in keeping the team in Phoenix, Richard Rodier is only aware of one of them having done any due diligence so far (likely Jerry Reinsdorf but he didn’t specify).
3. Richard Rodier found it interesting that the NHL is hanging its hat on the idea that so long as there is someone interested in operating the team in Phoenix the team will remain in Phoenix. Rodier found that interesting because it is essentially telling the other owners, who may have spent $175 million on their franchise, that even they will have to sell at a possibly significant loss. He used the Nashville franchise as an example. The current owners paid $193 million for the team and have an out clause in their lease should they lose $20 million over a 3 year period. Rodier hypothesized that what the NHL is trying to say is that if someone from another city offered $200 million to purchase the team and relocate it and someone from Nashville offered $25 million to keep the team in Nashville, then the team would have to be sold for $25 million to the group intent on keeping the team in Nashville. Now, if I was a current owner that would be disturbing to me. If I was a potential future owner, say through expansion, would I want to pay a $150 million expansion fee if I could be forced to sell my team for a fraction of that if for whatever reason the expansion franchise was not a success? Furthermore, the NHL does not consider loans made by the owner to the team loans and not repayable upon sale of the team. It isn’t sounding like the NHL is treating its owners all that fairly and one wonders how long the owners will stand by Bettman’s side.
4. Most interesting though, Rodier mentioned that it appears there are teams that cannot be sold in their local markets and that at least one has approached the commissioner about moving. I’ll speculate that that team is the Florida Panthers but it could be the Islanders as well.
In other news, one of Bettman’s vaunted potential ownership groups for the Phoenix Coyotes may now meet the NHL’s required level of dysfunctionality.