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NHL moving towards new ownership deal for Coyotes

A group which includes Calgary financier George Gosbee are in negotiations to take over the Phoenix Coyotes. (file photo)

Chris Bolin/The Globe and Mail

There is yet another conditional agreement in place for the NHL to sell the Phoenix Coyotes.

A group led by Calgary financier George Gosbee and Thunder Bay, Ont., native Anthony LeBlanc has been negotiating for months with the NHL for the financially moribund franchise. Indications are the conditional deal will be presented to city council of suburban Glendale on Tuesday. Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers told reporters he expects NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to explain the deal to council.

However, the principals are keeping quiet. Neither NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, Gosbee nor LeBlanc responded for requests for comment Saturday morning. TSN's Darren Dreger posted on Twitter the league confirmed a conditional deal is in place but a number of issues remain to be settled before it is "a done deal."

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One sign the NHL may be optimistic to have finally settled its longest-running embarrassment is that the league signed Coyotes general manager Don Maloney to a new, long-term contract on Friday.

The biggest issue is the lease for Jobing.com Arena, which has scuttled a number of bids since the NHL was forced to buy the franchise out of bankruptcy in 2009. Would-be owners, the latest of whom was former San Jose Sharks president Greg Jamison, who pulled out in January, all say the purchase cannot work unless the team receives at least $15-million (all currency U.S.) per year over at least 20 years as a fee for managing the arena.

The fee is to help offset the Coyotes' chronic losses because of poor attendance, which have been as much as $40-million per year.

However, Glendale council now has four new members among its seven councillors and the group is no longer willing to pay that much money to manage the arena. Recently, several city officials and councillors have said they are looking at a fee of $6-million per year.

LeBlanc has said several times the only way a sale, which is expected to be for $170-million, can work is if the Coyotes can get a substantial amount of money in some fashion for running the arena.

Gosbee and the NHL are also working against the clock, as Glendale hired a consulting firm to solicit bids from any interested parties to manage the arena. The deadline for those bids is next Friday. A deal would also need to be in place by June, as Glendale council has to finalize its annual budget because its new fiscal year begins July 1.

Without a management deal for the arena, it is unlikely anyone would be willing to own the NHL team, which has been on the verge of moving to another city several times over the years.

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About the Author
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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