There have been a fair bit of rumors and speculation being tossed around on the Phoenix Coyotes ownership front over the past two days. We have (and will continue) to be lax on our rumor-mongering, but this merits a bit of discussion considering the primary source.
As has been widely circulated, Coyotes Chief Operating Officer Mike Nealy reported to the Arizona Republic's Lisa Halverstadt that NHL and the City of Glendale have been meeting/having discussions with two groups that are potentially interested in buying the team. Both groups have remained officially anonymous, although it has been widely speculated that one group is led by the seemingly ever-present Jerry Reinsdorf.
As the only local radio talk station that seems to cover this stuff, Roc and Manuch had a bit more information that they reported on their show this afternoon, as hinted on Roc's twitter feed. For those that weren't listening, it seems as if both groups are prepared to make an offer to the Glendale City Council when they return to session in a few weeks and both offers will contain some form of out clause. The specifics of the out clause (time and trigger) remain unknown according to their report.
Now, I know that for some people this is going to be seen as a complete non-starter. Remember that when Matthew Hulsizer was looking for approval of his proposed offer, several Council members voted no solely because it had some vague non-commitment language that irked them, albeit not a full "out" clause. Further, Hulsizer verbally committed to keeping the Coyotes here for the duration of the lease. Therefore, it is possible that these potential out clauses will spell disaster for a potential deal even before it gets any traction.
I'm not so sure though. Absolutely, the City Council should question any out clause and try to make the triggers as hard to hit as possible. But remember that the original deal with Jerry Reinsdorf that was approved in April 2010 contained a 5-year out clause. And it is also quite clear that the marketability for the Coyotes franchise hasn't exactly improved since then.
No, as much as I would love for a potential owner to swoop in and make a guarantee that the team would stay for the entire 30-year lease term (a la Hulsizer), an out clause is completely reasonable at this stage. The fans have shied away for a variety of reasons, but if an owner steps in and gives a time frame for turning things around and this city cannot do it; well, then the team should probably move to be frank.
However, so long as the ownership group isn't the cheapest group known to man, the team should remain very competitive and a good value for your entertainment dollars. Given a modicum of quality marketing and continued improvement obtaining local sponsors, then meeting whatever "growth" metrics will be used to trigger an out clause should not be an issue. Of course, we all know how fickle Phoenix fans can be and true growth will only happen if they make a playoff run that doesn't end in seven or fewer games (and hey, if the NBA stays locked out that will only help as well).
Is there an end in sight? Not really. Even if the City of Glendale approves both proposed offers and can finally settle on terms with one, it's a long process towards it actually going anywhere, as we've learned the hard way too many times already. But there are reasons for some level of optimism and we can only hope that the Glendale City Council finds a way not to completely screw the pooch this time.