LeBlanc: Coyotes will be in middle of pack for spending

Anthony LeBlanc said Tuesday the Coyotes are within reach of  ownership's financial goal of being profitable by next season.

Coyotes co-owner Anthony LeBlanc said Tuesday in a conference call that he expects the Coyotes cap number and payroll numbers to be in the middle of the NHL pack for the upcoming season.

One week ago, general manager Don Maloney said: "I think it’s fair to say we’ll be toward the bottom portion of the league."

Confused? So were we. But LeBlanc said Maloney’s comments came before he received the budget from the IceArizona ownership group — a move that came within the past 48 hours.

LeBlanc would not say what that budget is, but he did note that the team’s cap number last season was around $62 million (actual spending was less), so that should be a guide.

What that will mean for free agency is anyone’s guess.  LeBlanc reaffirmed that free agency decisions will be left to Maloney and his staff, with no meddling from IceArizona.

"We will be on information-receive mode," he said, "but we certainly won’t be decision-makers."

Maloney has had conversations with all of the team’s unrestricted free agents and presumably many who were with other clubs last year, but he is concerned that the asking prices are still too high for a thin free-agent class whose best talent is on the wrong side of 30 years old. 

Posturing is as much a part of free agency as the actual negotiations, so it’s hard to know what agents, players and GMs are really thinking with about two weeks before free agency begins and about a week before the free-agent negotiating window opens. 

LeBlanc and the ownership group met with Maloney, coach Dave Tippett and others on June 6 to discuss the 2013-14 season in detail from Portland (AHL) all the way to Phoenix. They also discussed the future of the club.

"The real theme of our meeting was how do we create a real first-class organization," LeBlanc said. "The most important thing for us was what does the blueprint of a successful franchise looks like?"

LeBlanc said IceArizona wants to provide the resources to create such an organization. For example, Maloney asked for and was granted an increase in the scouting budget.   

LeBlanc shrugged off a report in the Globe and Mail of Toronto that detailed the Coyotes’ revenue and losses for the past season, calling the numbers "absolutely incorrect."

When asked how he would characterize the team’s first-year finances, he said: "The easiest way to put it is ‘on target.’ " He also said next year’s forecasts are aggressive but achievable, and if the team reaches those marks, the long-stated goal of being profitable by Year 3 is within reach.

LeBlanc acknowledged that having a full summer to market the team will be a great advantage over last season when the ownership group took over in August. His staff is at full strength and planning meetings have already been held that were not held until late August last season.

"From a business standpoint, we had no right to achieve goals last year when didn’t we start until August," he said.

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