Coyotes sale holding up Thrashers move?

TED WYMAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:24 PM ET

Whether they stay in Arizona or move back to Manitoba, the Phoenix Coyotes hold most of the cards regarding the potential return of the NHL to Winnipeg.

The Coyotes sale remains a muddled mess, but the NHL continues to try to clean it up and reach a deal with the City of Glendale and potential owner Matt Hulsizer, which will keep the team in Phoenix.

Efforts to save the team are preventing Winnipeg from landing the franchise it lost 15 years ago and it may also be preventing True North Sports and Entertainment from making a deal to buy the Atlanta Thrashers.

The Thrashers are for sale and are a candidate for immediate relocation, but it’s believed the NHL is waiting to see how the situation shakes out in Phoenix before it addresses any transaction involving the Thrashers.

Both TSN and Sportsnet reported Wednesday that the Thrashers will move quickly into a deal with True North if an agreement is reached to keep the Coyotes in Phoenix.

In fact TSN insider Darren Dreger said the Thrashers owners are ready to sell to Winnipeg interests right now.

But it likely won’t happen with the Coyotes still in limbo.

Reports indicate Winnipeg should have its answer by the end of next week. Either the Coyotes will be on the move, or they’ll be staying in Phoenix and the NHL will turn it’s attention to the sale and relocation of the Thrashers.

All this comes on the heels of Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz, sounding like he knows something the rest of us don’t, saying he doesn’t think the Coyotes will be the team that moves to Winnipeg.

His suggestion that the Coyotes are obligated to stay in Phoenix due to contractual commitments doesn’t hold water — NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly himself said he has no idea what commitments Katz is referring to — but something obviously prompted Katz to make those comments now.

Wouldn’t he have had the same concerns about contractual commitments for years? Couldn’t he have expressed that opinion dozens of times before this?

It’s a very strange time for him to suddenly pour cold water on a potential Coyotes move.

Perhaps it’s simply an opportunity for him to get ahead of the game on the Thrashers end of the story.

He’s certainly not the only one suggesting Winnipeg’s hopes rest in Atlanta.

Of course, we’ve all known for months that the Thrashers are in the mix regardless of what happens with the Coyotes. The reason I’ve been suggesting the odds are greater than ever a team will return to Winnipeg is that there potentially are two teams available.

I’m not ready to take the day off work for a party at Portage and Main on Friday (though those rumours simply refuse to die), but there is a lot of reason for optimism, even though both Daly and a True North spokesman said Wednesday no announcement is imminent.

The league is running out of time to finalize the sale of the Coyotes and a decision will have to be made soon.

With the Thrashers waiting in the wings, whatever the NHL decides in the desert could be great news for Winnipeg.


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