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The sale of the St. Louis Blues to a group headed by minority owner Tom Stillman is finally ready to be announced.

According to an NHL source, Stillman has his financing and legal work in place and is just waiting for the right moment – probably when the Blues are finished in the NHL playoffs – to make the announcement. The final step will be the stamp of approval from the league's board of governors, although that is not going to be a problem since Stillman is NHL commissioner Gary Bettman's preferred buyer.

The purchase, thought to be for around $130-million (all currency U.S.), comes not a moment too soon. Two sources say the Blues' debt situation is serious enough under current chairman Dave Checketts that the NHL has been paying the team's bills, likely in the form of advances on its share of league revenues, since early January. The assistance may have ended in April when ticket money from the playoffs and season tickets for next season began coming in.

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NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly insisted it was "not accurate" to say the Blues sale is awaiting only an announcement or that the team was getting money from the league. He said in an e-mail message the timing of the announcement is "being driven exclusively by the deal itself. When it's done, it will be announced immediately." However, Daly also said he expects the sale will "happen in the near future."

Stillman will get the Blues, their American Hockey League team, the lease to the Scotttrade Center and a share of the Peabody Opera House. He will also have to deal with the Blues' sizeable debt and make sure the NHL is reimbursed for all of its expenses.

The group put together by Stillman consists of people prominent in St. Louis business circles. The most well-known among them is the Taylor family, which owns Enterprise Holdings Inc., which operates Enterprise Rent-A-Car, National Car Rental and Alamo Rent A Car.

According to a source familiar with Stillman's plans, the only management departure from the Blues in the wake of the sale will be Checketts. Blues president John Davidson, general manager Doug Armstrong and head coach Ken Hitchcock, who turned the team around on the ice, are all expected to retain their positions.

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Hockey columnist

A native of Wainfleet, Ont., David Shoalts joined The Globe in 1984 after working at the Calgary Herald, Calgary Sun and Toronto Sun. He graduated in 1978 from Conestoga College and also attended the University of Waterloo. More

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