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June 16, 2013 | 11:09pm ET
Remember this word: Expansion
 The ownership ordeal in Phoenix has the NHL examining other options down the road.

CHICAGO, IL -- The end is finally near in Phoenix. Seriously. For real, this time. Honestly. Fina-freakin-lly!! One way or another, in the next few days/weeks, we'll know the outcome in Arizona. Either the Coyotes are staying in Glendale next season and beyond, or they're moving to Seattle.

Sounds simple enough, right? If only this could've been resolved years ago
[stares into the abyss].

In the NHL's defense [ducks for cover], I don't blame them too much for taking this long to find a resolution to Phoenix's ownership dilemma. Their priority, as it stands for every current NHL franchise, is to uncover every possible ownership stone before truly considering alternative options.

In Atlanta, nobody -- seriously, nobody -- was seriously interested in buying the Thrashers and keeping them in Georgia. As a result, the Jets were reinvented and the NHL returned to Winnipeg. (And Mr. HRR hasn't been happier).

Phoenix has been an entirely different situation. There have been a number of prospective ownership groups interested in purchasing the Coyotes and keeping them in Glendale. Sure, they didn't all know what they were getting themselves into, and yes, not all of them actually had the money they said they did, but hey, that's now a thing of the past.

This new group, Renaissance Sports and Entertainment -- headed by Calgary native George Gosbee, who is the head of Alberta-based investment bank AltaCorp; Ottawa resident Anthony LeBlanc, whose group, Ice Edge Holdings, tried to purchase the Coyotes a few years ago; Calgary native and Houston businessman Avik Dey; and New York businessman Daryl Jones
-- actually has the cash, the partners, and the desire to keep the team in Arizona.

With an agreement with the NHL already ironed out -- a Letter of Intent to purchase the franchise, if you will -- RSE has been negotiating a lease agreement with the City of Glendale, something that's proven to be a major pain in the League's ass backside.

RSE and the City of Glendale have the base of a lease agreement in place, which includes the city paying the group an annual lease management fee and incorporating other revenues streams for RSE to make up the difference.

The City of Glendale was originally only willing to pay $6 million per year, and while that's still what has been budgeted, the additional revenue streams will bridge the almost $9 million gap.

There is still a lot that needs to be done, such as the city council officially approving the lease agreement -- you know, that old chestnut -- but the parties appear confident a deal will be finalized.

Yes, we've heard all that fun stuff before. I tried speaking to a few Coyotes players about it, and everyone's reaction was the same: "I'll believe it when I see it."

So will the rest of us.

There are still a few hurdles to jump over before this gets signed off and becomes real. Sound familiar?

This time, however, the NHL has reached the end of its rope. If this deal between RSE and the City of Glendale falls through, the Coyotes will be sent packing for, presumably, Seattle. And if that happens, the NHL will be forever dead in the desert. (If only they stayed in Scottsdale).

But I'm not supposed to be writing about the Coyotes' future in Phoenix/Glendale. I'm supposed to be writing about the underlining message in all of this Coyotes ownership hoopla. You know, the thing we at TFP have been talking about for a while now...

EXPANSION!

Yes, that's right. We'll be hearing the word "expansion" quite a bit in the near future, as the NHL looks to grow to 32 teams.

This won't happen over night, but it's coming. And all the talk surrounding Seattle only emphasizes the inevitable.

As KING 5 News in Seattle reported earlier today, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn confirmed he's had talks with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman about the city housing an NHL franchise. Talks heated up roughly two weeks ago when a representative of Chris Hansen, who has been trying to build a new arena in Seattle and bring the NBA to town, introduced McGinn and some city council members to potential investors in an NHL team.

"Our message to all parties has been the same: We believe we can support an NHL team as a tenant at KeyArena, and as a potential tenant of a new arena, subject to all parties reaching agreement on terms," McGinn told KING 5.

"As recent news reports indicate, it appears the NHL is taking the new ownership proposal seriously. But we also know from experience that it may be some time before an NHL team is located in Seattle, as the home city for the Phoenix Coyotes is working to keep them. We will keep the public informed as we learn more about the possibility of the NHL in Seattle."

It sounds like the NHL is poised to put an NHL franchise in The Emerald City, at some point. If the Coyotes stay in Arizona -- upon which they're expected to be rebranded as the Arizona Coyotes -- then Seattle must wait. But they might not wait too long, and they'll have some company.

Quebec City has been knocking on the NHL's door for some time. They're also next in line.

Providing the current 30 NHL markets remain intact, when the NHL goes to 32 teams, Seattle and Quebec City will be their quasi-new markets.

Markham (a suburb of Toronto) has been indirectly vying for an NHL franchise, and they'll get plenty of consideration down the road -- if Phoenix moves to Seattle, then they'll move up in line and the NHL will be more than happy to take the $400 million to $500 million expansion fee it'll cost that market.

Meanwhile, Houston is kind of on the radar, though Kansas City would jump ahead of them if there's ever a serious-enough group willing to own a team in that territory (they've got the building, but no real ownership group). As for Las Vegas... forgetaboutit. Saskatchewan? No chance.

For the time being, a lot rests on what happens with the Coyotes. The NHL wants to make sure this franchise is set, one way or another. Once it is, that's one less team to worry about, and with the Islanders moving to Brooklyn for the 2015-16 season (problem solved), there's really only one other NHL franchise currently in a major F***ing mess. But I won't get into that now -- just know they're being fixed, and we'll have more on that later this month.

It's unclear when the NHL plans on moving to 32 clubs, but many within the League believe it could happen within the next three-to-five years. The new facility in Quebec City will be ready in 2015, so you'd have to imagine the 2015-16 season would be the target (if the NHL expands to QC, I doubt they'd house the team in the Colisee for a year). As for Seattle and Markham/Toronto, those buildings haven't broke ground yet, and they'll each take two-to-three years to complete.

The 2015-16 campaign seems to be the earliest we'd see even conferences of 16... And if the 30 current clubs remain, and one Eastern team and one Western team is added, somebody from the East is doing back to the West. If Phoenix moves to Seattle, and Quebec City and Markham are added, there's a good chance Markham will end up in the Western Conference, leaving one Eastern team to head back West. But we can worry about realignment when the time comes.

Buckle up, Seattle. Get ready, Quebec. It's coming.

Eventually.

David Pagnotta is the Editor-in-Chief of The Fourth Period Magazine. Follow him on Twitter.
 

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