Coyotes staying in desert?

The Coyotes are close to being sold to a Chicago businessman. (REUTERS/David W Cerny)

The Coyotes are close to being sold to a Chicago businessman. (REUTERS/David W Cerny)

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:51 PM ET

Negotiations to keep the Coyotes in Phoenix appear ready to get down and dirty in the corners.

Yes, you've heard it before.

But this time, despite contradictory reports during the past 24 hours, it appears a deal between Chicago financier Matthew Hulsizer, the NHL and the City of Glendale is close.

"The City and the Hulsizer group have an agreement in principle on a lease which would allow the Hulsizer group to buy the team from the National Hockey League (NHL) under the terms they requested," the City of Glendale said in a statement released Friday. "The proposed ownership transaction is subject to formal approval by the NHL Board of Governors."

Winnipeg hockey fans, meanwhile, must sit and wait to see if the deal really does go through this time. It does appear things are more serious this time around, though.

"The City of Glendale is either at or close to an arrangement with Mr. Hulsizer," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said. "There's still lots of work to be done, but I think we are headed in the right direction."

According to one QMI source, Hulsizer has a framework of a deal with Glendale for an arena lease. It is similar to the deal Chicago Bulls and White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf had constructed, with a tax district around the rink being created to produce revenue to offset the Coyotes losses.

The last stumbling block in having Hulsizer take over the Coyotes was the negotiation of a price for the franchise. The league wants at least $165 million to offset what it paid for the franchise in 2009 and the losses it incurred up to the beginning of this season.

"Yes, I believe an announcement will be made shortly that the parties (Glendale, the potential buyer and the league) have reached a tentative agreement that would see the transitioning of ownership to a buyer and would assure the long-term future of the Coyotes in Glendale," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told QMI Agency. "It's not 'done' yet. The deals still have to be papered and executed, and we still have to go through our board's formal approval process."

Said one QMI source: "I think we are getting to a point where we are going to find out if this is going to work, but I think it's only going to work if the NHL gets its price."

That could mean Glendale having to step in with the difference between what Hulsizer is willing to pay and what the NHL wants or risk having the whole deal fall apart.

Glendale is already on the hook to reimburse the NHL for up to $25 million in losses for the current season.

"The governors would like to get this deal done," the source said, "but only if it means they are going to come out of this without it costing them money. You can't blame them. I guess we're going to find out how bad Glendale wants to keep the Coyotes for that building."

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chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca


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