Ready for Baum to drop

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman submitted a bid for the Coyotes that will honour the existing arena...

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman submitted a bid for the Coyotes that will honour the existing arena lease. (Sun Media/Darren Makowichuk)

ROB LONGLEY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:55 AM ET

For now, and likely until the Sept. 10 bankruptcy auction in a Phoenix courtroom takes place, judge Redfield T. Baum holds all of the answers regarding the city's NHL franchise.

But the longer the Coyotes saga drags on, the more the questions pile up.

This much we know: Baum has three confirmed bids to consider, including the last-minute presentation filed by the NHL on Tuesday after one of the favourites, a group hand-picked by the league and headed by Jerry Reinsdorf, withdrew.

Yesterday, it was learned that the league bid is for $140 million US, plus conditions, including an agreement to honour the existing lease with the city of Glendale.

Next up is Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie's long-standing offer of $212.5 million to owner Jerry Moyes, contingent on transferring the team to Hamilton's Copps Coliseum.

LONG-SHOT OFFER

And, finally, there is the long-shot offer of Ice Edge Holdings, a group of American and Canadian businessmen. Ice Edge, which has suggested playing as many as five home games in Saskatoon, is bidding $150 million for the bankrupt franchise.

The Balsillie group is keeping a brave (and confident) face after the latest developments while, like the rest of the hockey world, waiting for the Baum to drop.

"We respect the court process," Balsillie spokesman Bill Walker said yesterday. "We continue to believe Jim Balsillie has the best bid for creditors, fans and for the future long-term prosperity of this franchise."

And now for those questions:

If you are the owner of (pick a financially free-falling franchise), how do you feel about shedding more blood to help bankroll the NHL bid? Bad enough you are struggling to make ends meet in your own market, and now you are asked for more? The league has said that, if successful, it will seek another owner to assume the trouble. Easier said than done, one would think.

Despite its protestations of Balsillie's plan, would the league be amenable to the Coyotes moving? In its bid, the NHL leaves open that possibility.

Could the timing of the bankruptcy auction be any worse? By the time Baum rules, Coyotes players will be within 48 hours of reporting to training camp. Not exactly a good frame of mind for the players to begin their season.

What about the Great One? With Reinsdorf gone, is Wayne Gretzky's future as coach now secure? It was reportedly one of Reinsdorf's plans to purge Gretzky's huge salary. The league bid appears to second that opinion.

If a successful sports owner such as Reinsdorf (Chicago White Sox, Chicago Bulls) is unwilling to take a shot on the Coyotes and keep the team in Arizona, just who would?

On second thought, might Balsillie wish his enforcers hadn't included Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk on its list of supposed rogue NHL owners? Given Melnyk's general disdain for the Toronto Maple Leafs, he would have been a nice ally to court.

Is anyone taking Ice Edge Holdings seriously? The only other bidder once Reinsdorf bolted must have some red flags given the NHL's quick reaction of cobbling together its own offer. Games in Saskatoon? Get real.

Now that we know the value of the NHL bid, as one of the Coyotes' major creditors, how does commissioner Gary Bettman spin it to his board of governors?

Who is going to pay to see the Coyotes this season? A tough draw at the best of times -- the team deeply discounted tickets this past season -- the not so hockey-mad denizens of the desert aren't likely to rush out to support a team that smells of lame duck.

And just how does the NHLPA feel about all the uncertainty surrounding a team that employs so many of its members?

ROB.LONGLEY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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