The chances of the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes moving to Seattle in the near future seems to be a longshot.
A financial deal between the team and the City of Glendale may be nearing, according to a report Friday by Fox Sports Arizona. But given the instability of the on-again, off-again negotiations, there’s an outside chance the hockey team could play here next season. Or Seattle could be a leverage ploy.
Before the Stanley Cup Finals opened Wednesday, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said he hoped to have clarity on the situation at the league’s Board of Governors meeting on June 27.
“We’re getting to the point where some decisions are going to have to be made,” Bettman said. “Time is getting short.”
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The NHL has owned the Coyotes since 2009 and several attempts to sell the team have failed. A potential Canadian ownership group that includes George Gosbee and Anthony LeBlanc is in line to buy the team for $170 million, but the group has been unable to secure a deal with the City of Glendale to play at Jobing.com Arena.
On Friday, FoxSportsArizona.com reported the two sides reached agreement on a tentative arena lease deal. The proposal is expected to be presented at the Glendale City Council executive session Tuesday.
At issue is the cost of managing the arena. The Glendale City Council has budgeted about $6 million annually to run the arena. The NHL seeks an operating budget between $13 million and $15 million.
Citing unnamed sources, the report said the Gosbee and LeBlanc ownership group discovered additional Coyote-related revenue streams for the city.
The Coyotes, formerly the Winnipeg Jets, moved to Phoenix in 1996. The team has played in Glendale since 2003.
The NHL wants to keep the team in Arizona, but has reportedly considered moving to Seattle or Quebec City.
“We’re in the short strokes in Phoenix now,” deputy commissioner Bill Daly said last week. “I think everybody knows kind of what’s on the table and I think the puck is pretty much in the City of Glendale’s end with respect to how they want to deal with that.”
Daly added that next season’s NHL schedule has been delayed in part because of the uncertainty with the Coyotes.
If the NHL doesn’t receive favorable news when the Glendale City Council meets June 25, Bettman said the league will consider “other options.”
“There are a number of markets that have been expressing interest in us over the years,” the commissioner said. “The phone keeps ringing more regularly the longer that the Coyotes situation stays unresolved.”
If the Coyotes were to move, Seattle is considered a favored destination because the NHL would want to keep the team in the West to balance alignment in the 30-team league.
The team might play at KeyArena, which seats roughly 11,000 for hockey, until a proposed $490 million downtown arena could be built.
“We would love to have the NHL as a tenant at KeyArena,” said Aaron Pickus, a spokesman for Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn. “We’ve heard from a number of potential investors over the past few years.”
However, the Memorandum of Understanding between Seattle and Chris Hansen, who wants to bring an NBA team to the city, calls for an NBA franchise to be acquired before construction starts on an arena.
After his failed attempt to purchase the Sacramento Kings, Hansen noted the five-year MOU would need to be amended if a hockey team was going to be the first primary tenant at a new arena.
With elections in November, those close to the arena situation believe it’s unlikely the MOU would be amended this summer.
Hansen isn’t interested in buying a hockey team, but has said he’s open to working with potential owners. Hansen and Microsoft mogul Steve Ballmer now are focused on securing an NBA expansion franchise.
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @percyallen. Staff reporter Lynn Thompson contributed to this report.