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Owner Oren Koules of the Tampa Bay Lightning announces the first pick of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft at Scotiabank Place on June 20, 2008 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Bruce Bennett/2008 Getty Images

Oren Koules is putting the finishing touches on a plan to buy out Len Barrie as co-owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning and hopes to present it to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman in less than a week, according to a league source.

Koules, 48, is close to making a deal with the former owner of the Lightning, Detroit Pistons owner Bill Davidson, to increase his financing in order to buy out Barrie's 35-per-cent share of the franchise. When Koules, Barrie and several smaller partners bought the Lightning in June of 2008 from Davidson, he essentially took back a mortgage that covered about half of the $206-million (all currency U.S.) purchase price.

After Koules and Barrie could no longer co-exist as owners, Bettman gave each the opportunity to buy out the other in order to bring peace to a franchise that has had more than its share of ownership turmoil since joining the NHL in 1991. Barrie was given the first opportunity to put together a buyout, but his serious financial troubles with his Bear Mountain real estate development in Victoria hampered his efforts.

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An NHL source said Barrie told Bettman he could not manage a buyout and would have to withdraw. However, Barrie denied this, saying he is still talking to Anthony Sansone Jr., a St. Louis real-estate developer, about joining him in the buyout. But NHL sources say there is no sign of a deal.

"Well, I haven't pulled out yet,"' Barrie said. He added that he is "still dealing with the guy from St. Louis," as well as "a couple other groups."

Koules, citing a gag order imposed by Bettman on the situation, declined to comment. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly also declined to comment.

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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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