It’s an important week for the future of the Phoenix Coyotes. Or is it?
While sources maintain that the NHL is pressuring Renaissance Sports and Entertainment to strike a deal this week (at least in principle) with the City of Glendale on a lease agreement for Jobing.com Arena, Glendale councilmember Gary Sherwood received mitigating information over the weekend.
Sherwood spoke to NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly on Sunday, and Daly assured him that there is “no deadline, per se.” Daly told Sherwood that if the city and RSE appear to be headed toward an agreement, the NHL would be amenable to the Glendale City Council voting on it in July rather than on June 25, when the council next convenes.
That somewhat contradicts what sources have said the league is telling RSE. Under that scenario, the city and RSE — the ownership group of George Gosbee, Anthony LeBlanc, Daryl Jones and Avik Dey — would need to have a deal ready by June 17 so that it could be presented at the Glendale City Council Executive Session on June 18 and then voted on at the council meeting one week later.
Why the different stories? The answer may be a matter of semantics. As long as the league feels confident the deal will happen, it would likely agree to wait until July for a final vote, Daly told Sherwood. The league has four years of effort invested in keeping the Coyotes in the Valley, so to give up now would be a cause for significant chagrin, particularly after the Thrashers abandoned Atlanta in 2011.
The league also has an existing arena in Glendale, and Phoenix is the sixth-largest city in the United States and one of the country’s larger media markets, making it attractive from a television standpoint.
From a timing standpoint, an earlier deadline still makes more sense. If the league wants options aside from keeping the team in Glendale, it would seem unlikely (although nobody really knows what that drop-dead date is) the NHL would be able to move the team in July given all the requirements of a new market, including selling season tickets and launching an effective marketing campaign for a team that begins training camp in September.
No matter what you’ve heard about the possibility of the Coyotes playing one more season in Glendale under NHL stewardship, rest assured that will not happen. The Coyotes will not be in Glendale next season without a lease agreement with the City of Glendale and a consummated sale of the team.
As for relocation possibilities, Sherwood asked Daly about a recent rumor that Seattle is still involved in potential plans and was told that Seattle is one of several cities in consideration, as is Quebec, which is still believed to be a fallback option because the NHL would prefer to collect a lucrative expansion fee from the hockey-rabid city that is also home to the most famous youth hockey tournament in the world.
There are a number of other reasons the June 25 date is important. The NHL schedule is set to be released once the league, the NHLPA, the IIHF and the IOC decide whether NHL players will compete in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. That release date will likely be in late June. However, it’s been rumored that two NHL schedules were built in prior years with the Coyotes’ status in limbo, so the schedule may not present a major issue.
The July 5 start of free agency is another major component in this deal. It’s possible the league could simply tell Coyotes GM Don Maloney to operate under the same budget as last season while it waits for the sale of the team to be consummated, but that would severely hamper the team’s efforts to sign both its own free agents (notably, goalie Mike Smith) and free agents from other teams when players don’t know for certain where the Coyotes will be and how competitive they will be.
Finally, there is the impending free agency of coach Dave Tippett, whose contract expires June 30. If Maloney is told he has the same budget as last season, meaning the Coyotes can’t add pieces to improve the club in 2013-14, Tippett will have plenty of more attractive suitors on July 1. The New York Rangers, Vancouver Canucks and Dallas Stars all have openings, and the Pittsburgh Penguins and other teams could soon.
Tippett is currently vacationing in Minnesota and isn’t expected back in the Valley until mid-week.
Sherwood confirmed that one of RSE’s principals, Anthony LeBlanc, delivered a number of proposals and “interesting ideas” for managing Jobing.com Arena on paper to Glendale acting city manager Dick Bowers on June 7. Bowers is reviewing those.
Bowers and other representatives from the city were also scheduled to meet with representatives of Beacon Sports Capital Partners on Monday to review the four bids Beacon received recently to manage the arena. It is still unknown who submitted those four bids.