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Phoenix Coyotes: Glendale City Council Vote Assures at Least One More Year in the Desert

GM Don Maloney needs to find ways to pay for free agents.
GM Don Maloney needs to find ways to pay for free agents.Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Mark BrownContributor IMay 11, 2011

The Phoenix Coyotes will remain in the desert for at least one more year.

Scratch the rumors of moving to Winnipeg or anywhere else at least in the short term. That’s because the Glendale (Ariz.) City Council, by a 5-2 voice vote May 10, adopted a resolution which grants the City Manager authority to extend the management agreement between the city and the NHL for $25 million.

The council will pay the NHL $20 million during the course of the coming 2011-12 season, and the final $5 million on the final day of the season to manage the city-owned Arena.

That includes control of the Coyotes as well as concerts, rodeos, monster truck pulls and whatever events can be lured into the building.

Council action did not address the sale of the franchise to Mathew Hulsizer, or anyone else, but simply enters into an agreement between the city and the NHL, current owner of the franchise, to manage the facility.

“It’s a good night for the city of Glendale, a good night for the Coyotes and a good night for the NHL,” deputy NHL commission Bill Daly told reporters after the council meeting.

“At this point, and if Hulsizer remains as the principal buyer, we need to look at restricting the transaction in ways that works for all parties.”

The reference here is a threatening lawsuit from the Goldwater Institute, a conservative think tank based in Phoenix.

Goldwater maintains any public money raised through bonds or agreed by the city council to Hulsizer for the purpose of purchasing the Coyotes, is considered a subsidy, and therefore illegal by Arizona statue.

Glendale major Elaine Scruggs responded that the council action with the NHL taken May 11, constitutes “payment for a service, and not payment for a subsidy.”

Scruggs, along with several other council members, stressed in their public comments, that Arena, the Coyotes home rink, and the Coyotes franchise in particular, were two assets which the city of Glendale could not afford to lose.

Creating an image of a sports destination city, and as well as providing jobs and a viable tax base, the entire Westgate area could not be comprised by departure of the Coyotes.

“Westgate,” the location both of Arena and the University of Phoenix Stadium, site of the Arizona Cardinals home games, is an amalgam of shops, bars, restaurants, residence areas and sports venues, vital to the local economy.

The vote to keep the Coyotes in Glendale now creates two essential issues. First, the protracted scenario of finding a creditable buyer becomes more protracted, and general manager Don Maloney could have his hands tied in trying to sign players.

Immediately, goalie Ilya Bryzgalov and defenseman Keith Yandle need to be signed.

Yandle, who emerged last season as one of the top defensemen in the league, is a restricted free agent, and will remain with Phoenix.

Bryzgalov has expressed desire to move close to a Russian community in North America, and could sign with Philadelphia. That might become reality quickly as the Flyers’ goaltending completely fell apart in the playoffs.

“(The Coyotes) did not perform well in the playoffs, so there will be some changes,” Maloney said after the council meeting. “I will submit a budget to (Daly), the league will review and then we’ll go from there. Sure, I’ll try and squeeze as much as I can from the league.”

For now, search continues for a Coyotes’ buyer.

Hulsizer could be out for a number of reasons. First, his estimated wealth is rumored around $300 million. That is enough to buy the club for the $175 million, the current asking price.

However, Hulsizer would have to have deep pockets to sustain losses of $25 to $30 million per year. The next owner of the Coyotes will have a seven-year commitment from the NHL to keep the team in Arizona. That is, if the transaction does not include relocation from the desert.

As well, Hulsizer’s pockets may not be deep enough to open a checkbook and begin signing free agents. A deal for Bryzgalov alone could be for multiple years and cost around $25 million for starters.

At this point, the league continues its search for a buyer, while workers at Arena can now zero in ice making-dates for training camp this September and beyond.

“The council vote is a huge relief for the entire franchise,” Maloney added. “Everyone from the trainers to the front office staff is safe for another year, so it’s time to roll up our sleeves and improve the team we’ll put on the ice.”

Then again, the city of Glendale received only a reprieve, and the grinding scenario of finding a suitable owner continues at a snail’s pace.

EDITOR'S NOTE - Quotes in this story were obtained by the author during or after the Glendale, Ariz. city council meeting of May 20, 2011.

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