SUN Hockey Pool

Forget the Olympics

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman spoke to the media on Thursday about the NHL's possible participation...

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman spoke to the media on Thursday about the NHL's possible participation in future Olympic Games. (QMI Agency/Andre Forget)

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:43 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- While the focus of the hockey world is on the Olympics right now, there are other pressing issues for NHL brass.

It's been pretty quiet on the Phoenix front lately, but there have been rumblings that Ice/Edge Holdings -- which has a letter of intent to buy the Coyotes from the NHL -- has encountered problems bringing the deal together.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly spent part of his day in Vancouver Thursday on a Phoenix conference call.

"They're progressing. From the start, they have had a couple of things they have to put in place. They've made progress on those things they have to put in place, but they don't have all those ducks in a row at this point," he told QMI Agency.

"Again, the timeline as we originally anticipated, they're not behind."

Daly made the comments after a press conference held by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and IIHF president Rene Fasel, in which the two continued to spar over the future of NHLers in the Olympics. Bettman held to his position there's no rush to make a final call on Sochi in 2014, and that the decision will ultimately be part of the next collective bargaining process. The players want to take part in the Games, and the owners will use that desire to wring some kind of concessions, even minor ones, from them.

More pressing for the NHL in the short term, however, is ironing out the Phoenix situation.

When asked if Ice/Edge was working on financing or trying to recruit more owners into the group, Daly replied:

"There are a couple of things that are more specific I can't go into ... the structure of the transaction needs to be defined a little more. I know they're working hard and they've made some progress."

While rumours of a transfer of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg have sprung up this week (without much foundation, apparently), don't discount Winnipeg coming up as a possible destination if the Phoenix deal falls apart and a relocation scenario needs to be considered.

In the meantime, the league continues to run the Coyotes, who have had a great season so far and are sitting fourth in the Western Conference during the Olympic break, with a chance to open the playoffs at home.

Who would have thunk that?

It leaves them in the position of being buyers at the trade deadline which comes up March 3, just three days after the Olympic break.

So, with the league as owner, would it consider adding some salary at the trade deadline to help the Coyotes down the stretch if general manager Don Maloney saw fit?

The Coyotes have a payroll of about $42 million right now, well under the $56.8-million cap.

Daly said the league would consider any and all scenarios.

"It ultimately has to come through us and there's a couple of different levels of analysis. Most teams are like this: They operate on a pre-season budget put in place. Sometimes they save themselves some room to be buyers at the deadline, sometimes not so much. I'm not going to suggest what the Coyotes are in that regard," he said.

"Anything that is within the pre-approved player budget is perfectly fine to the extent there's a reason and (if) Donnie wants to make a case for going outside that player budget for a specified reason and for the good of the franchise it makes sense, he makes that recommendation, it's something we would consider at the time. It's certainly not something that's a non-starter."

It's admirable the league is willing to spend some more money to help the Coyotes at the deadline when you consider there could be grumblings from the teams around them in the standings who could be competing for the same players in the marketplace.


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