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Aug 302009
 

I apologize for the server issues we have experiences over the last several days.  The issues should be resolved now and everything should be back to normal but if anyone is still having issues be sure to let me know.

Also, I’ll get back to writing some hockey stuff in the next week or so.  I am just finishing up my summer vacation/break before I get back into things full force.  Hope you are all having a good summer as well and I look forward to the upcoming hockey season.

Aug 052009
 

Judge Redfield T. Baum has decided to allow all bidders into the September 10th auction, including Jim Balsillie against the pleading of the NHL. It was the most significant decision that Judge Baum has made so far in the bankruptcy case and in my opinion has clearly put Jim Balsillie’s offer for the Coyotes at the front of the line.

On June 15th, Judge Baum ruled against the Balsillie offer to purchase the team largely because Balsillie could not prove that the NHL was violating anti-trust laws mostly because they had not yet denied his request to move the team to Hamilton. This was a setback for the Balsillie camp, but only a setback. Today’s decision of Judge Baum’s to allow Balsillie to participate in the September 10th auction is an outright nightmare for the NHL. It really is a worst case scenario because unlike what was set to occur, a Glendale only auction followed by a relocation auction only if necessary, the new setup will see any bids to keep the team in Glendale directly compared to Jim Balsillie’s bid and that is bad news because it will likely now just come down to how much Jim Balsillie is willing to pay for the team. In essence the Phoenix Coyote’s are now Jim Balsillie’s team to lose. Yes, there will be appeals by the NHL and possibly by Glendale, but that probably won’t change the outcome.

I suspect that there are two key factors in Judge Baum’s decision today. The first is that he has no assurances that either the Reinsdorf or the Ice Edge bids can resolve all of their outstanding issues (and there are still a number of significant outstanding issues with both bids) prior to the September 10th auction meaning there might still be no bidders on September 10th just as there were no bidders for the auction that was supposed to be today. The second significant factor, and maybe the primary factor, is the statement from Michael Dell’s investment company SOF Investments Ltd. in which they supported the Jim Balsillie bid as it was the only bid that provided cash to fully repay the nearly $80 million in secured debt that SOF is owed and neither the Reinsdorf or the Ice Edge bids had come to any satisfactory arrangement with SOF (Reinsdorf has stated he wants to renegotiate the loan arrangement but hasn’t even talked to SOF yet). Furthermore, SOF and nearly every other creditor outside of the NHL spoke to the importance to have these bankruptcy proceedings resolved by the end of September at the latest and of course right now, keeping the Jim Balsillie bid alive is the only way to assure that of happening. These factors made the NHL Board of Governors vote against Balsillie look like a small issue in comparison.

With all the issues that still surround the Jerry Reinsdorf and Ice Holdings bids and the fact that they are now going to be bidding against Balsillie, it would not surprise me if one or both of them drop out of the process. Jerry Reinsdorf has previously threatened to drop out and his attorney’s in court on Monday stated they they never expected to be bidding against relocation bids. With all the backlash that has come about regarding the $23 million subsidy request Reisndorf has made to the City of Glendale I might actually be surprised if Reinsdorf just says it is not worth it anymore and pull his offer.

I eagerly await the response from Gary Bettman and the NHL regarding this decision. I expect the response will be to fight the decision however it can, but the proper response should be, at least behind closed doors, is to start preparing for hockey in Hamilton this October.

Aug 042009
 

We are now into mid-August, the dog days of the hockey season, but there are still a number of pretty solid NHL players that are available as un-restricted free agents, including Nikolai Zherdev who was let loose by the NY Rangers today. That got me to thinking, if we took the best of the currently unrestricted free agents, what might the team look like. Here is one possibility.

Left Wing Center Right Wing
Alex Tanguay Robert Lang Nikolai Zherdev
Vaclav Prospal Dominic Moore Petr Sykora
Todd Bertuzzi Manny Malholtra Jason Williams
Miroslav Satan Rob Niedermayer Mike Grier
Blair Betts Maxim Afinogenov
Defensemen
Matthieu Schneider Dennis Seidenberg
Martin Skoula Marc-Andre Bergeron
Christian Backman Jassen Cullimore
Francis Boullon
Goaltenders
Manny Fernandez
Joey MacDonald

That is actually not all that horrible of a team. Every one of the forwards on the projected top 4 lines had at least 10 goals with 9 of them getting at least 15. Blair Betts is a nice reserve defensive specialist and Afinogenov has great speed and some skill that went missing last season but certainly has 15-20 goal offensive upside, if not more. On defense you have three defensemen with at least 30 points and some decent depth, though nothing exceptional. All totaled, those 18 skaters accounted for 253 goals and 646 points which isn’t too shabby considering the Stanley Cup champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins, only had 258 goals and 706 goals. Accounting for the fact that the above all-UFA team didn’t total the typical number of man-games that a normal team would have (i.e. 12*82=984 for forwards, and 6*82=492 for defensemen) and the all-UFA offensive production is more like 260 goals and 668 points.

The goaltending is clearly a little weak but if Fernandez can remain healthy enough to play 40+ games it may not be too bad. MacDonald had a decent year for the Islanders last year as well.

So my question(s) to you all is this: How many teams in the NHL as their rosters current sit are worse than the above team? Islanders? Kings? Avalanche? Lightning? Thrashers? Could the above team compete for a playoff spot in the eastern Conference?

Aug 022009
 

Monday is going to be an interesting day in the Phoenix bankruptcy court room, and it could be a bad day for the Coyotes future in Phoenix.

Up for discussion is a motion filed by the NHL and the City of Glendale to postpone the auction for the sale of the Coyotes to parties interested in keeping the franchise in Phoenix until mid-September and thus cancel or delay until after the 2009-10 NHL season the auction to relocate the Coyotes. But there are a number of other issues that have arisen as well.

1. We have learned that neither the Jerry Reinsdorf or the Ice Edge Holdings bids for the franchise include any cash and will only assume debt. This is an issue because the court bidding procedure required a $10 million deposit be placed, something neither Reinsdorf or Ice Edge Holdings have done. This has prompted Moyes and Balsillie to put forth a motion calling for the cancellation of the August 5th auction stating that there are no qualified bids.

2. Within the Jerry Reinsdorf bid there are indication as to what arrangements have been discussed with the City of Glendale. Apparently what has been discussed is having the city set up a new taxing district around Jobing.com arena that could provide up to $23 million in new funds which presumable would get funneled into team coffers. There is also an out clause that if the team is losing money after 5 years Reinsdorf can get out of the lease and move the team.

3. But maybe the most significant development is we have learned that SOF Investments Ltd., the largest secured creditor and owed approximately $80 million, has come out in support of the Jim Balsillie offer for $212.5 million stating that that was the only bid that would repay them in full.

4. Also rejecting the Reinsdorf offer was AEG who has a contract to manage Jobing.com arena stating there is a dispute over how much money AEG is owed. As we know, a significant condition of the Reinsdorf offer is that they can renegotiate the terms of the contracts and debts with many of the creditors. The more they can’t come to an agreement with (and SOF and AEG are significant) the more difficulties the Judge will have in accepting the Reinsdorf offer (and presumable the Ice Edge offers are similar).

In short, what the Reinsdorf and Ice Holdings offers entail are just an assumption of restructured debt and contracts without any up front cash. At this point in time the largest secured creditor (SOF), the largest unsecured creditor (Moyes), and at least one contract holder (AEG) object to the offers. Plus, neither Reinsdorf or Ice Edge have come to a final agreement with the City of Glendale either. Right now, the Coyotes remaining in Phoenix might be a long shot at best. I look forward to hearing what Judge Baum has to say on all of this tomorrow but with everyone wanting Wednesday’s auction either delayed or canceled outright, the chances of getting a resolution to this mess on Wednesday seems somewhere between slim and none, and leaning towards none.

More details can be found here and here.