November 6, 2018 | 11:30am ET
BY DAVID PAGNOTTA, The Fourth Period
OWNERSHIP CHANGE COMING IN ARIZONA
TORONTO, ON -- As the Arizona Coyotes continue their efforts of finding a new long-term home in the Phoenix area, work has been going on behind-the-scenes for months with respect to a change in the franchise’s ownership structure.
According to multiple league sources, Coyotes owner Andrew Barroway is close to finalizing a deal with at least one interested party. I’m told by one specific source they are still in the “due diligence phase” with that party, and it’s unclear if any additional investors will be part of the equation.
It’s also unclear if Barroway will remain with the club in some capacity, either in a majority or minority role, though one league executive believes at best he’ll stay on as a minority owner.
The deal is expected to close by the end of this calendar year, though given certain complexities, it’s possible it gets ironed out in early-2019.
In July, Forbes reported Barroway was looking to sell 49% of the franchise at a valuation of $500 million and claimed the franchise has $250 million of debt – we’re told it’s actually closer to $300 million, of which $50 million is a return on a $50 million loan (ouch).
Barroway, who had actually been searching for new investors for over a year, became the sole owner of the Coyotes in June 2017. He took over as majority owner in Dec. 2014.
As part of the expected sale of the Coyotes, the plan would be to keep the franchise in the Phoenix area, though it’s not believe to be contingent on a new arena deal.
The NHL’s Board of Governors meets Dec. 3-4 in Georgia, upon which they’re expected to formally approve Seattle’s expansion bid, and it’s possible the Coyotes’ potential sale is among the items on the agenda.
The Coyotes aren’t the only NHL franchise to receive ownership inquiries. In late-July, I reported the Ottawa Senators received an offer for the franchise, and while the offer was considered, it was ultimately rejected. It has been mildly quiet since, though it’s believed future discussions are expected regarding the Senators, despite owner Eugene Melnyk’s public comments stating he has no interest in selling the team
TOUGH DECISIONS AHEAD FOR COLUMBUS
The Columbus Blue Jackets haven’t gotten off to the start they had hoped for, currently sitting with a 7-6-1 record, and if they can’t climb the standings in the next few months, they could be in for a very long season.
As if things weren’t difficult enough for Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen heading into the season, it could get a whole lot tougher closer to the Feb. 25 trade deadline.
Columbus sniper Artemi Panarin has made it painfully clear he is not overly interested in signing a long-term contract with the Blue Jackets, and if that wasn’t a hard enough pill for management to swallow, it also appears goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky may have similar intentions.
It has been reported Bobrovsky will want to sign a new long-term contract in the neighborhood of $9 million to $10 million per season. When asked by reporters at the start of the season this would be his last as a member of the Blue Jackets, he replied, “We’ll see.”
The Blue Jackets explored the trade market on Panarin in the off-season, and while teams like the New York Islanders expressed significant interest, Kekalainen opted against dealing the now-27-year-old.
The Islanders remain interested in Panarin, as are several other clubs, but trade talks aren’t expected to pick up again until the New Year.
What Columbus needs to decide is whether they want to take the chance of one last playoff-drive attempt with Panarin and possibly Bobrovsky in the lineup, or if they’re better off long-term dealing one or both of them by the trade deadline.
This is not an easy position for Kekalainen, who has been at a serious disadvantage since it became public that Panarin wasn’t interested in negotiating an extension with the club in the summer.