One set of owners (in Tampa) is feuding; at least a couple more are looking for buyers (including the Florida Panthers); an iconic franchise is changing hands (the Montreal Canadiens), and in the case of the Phoenix Coyotes, the team's future is in the hands of a bankruptcy court.
The storylines abound concerning the NHL's ownership groups, but league commissioner Gary Bettman thinks the talk - particularly when it comes to the Tampa Bay Lightning - is much ado about not very much.
"I think sometimes they get a little overblown. When you have partnerships, people don't always see eye to eye on everything, it's like a marriage, like friendships, like all relationships," he told a news conference in Montreal after a meeting of the league's board of governors. "Sometimes these issues come to more of a head because people in other businesses are under more pressure. I don't think any of them warrant the amount of attention that they're getting, but they're there and they're all being dealt with."
Bettman said there are no new developments on the Phoenix front, but the NHL still expects Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf to file a formal purchase offer for the Phoenix Coyotes by tomorrow and that he still expects a court-approved sale to an owner who will keep the team in Phoenix.
An Arizona judge has ordered local bids to be entered by Aug. 5, after which an open auction can be held for bids, including prospective owner Jim Balsillie, who has pledged to relocate the team.
"[The auction]only opens after Aug. 5 if there isn't a judicially approved sale in Phoenix prior to Aug. 5, but we're anticipating the club will be sold to an owner to keep in the Phoenix area so it shouldn't be an issue," Bettman said.
The Phoenix situation didn't seem to cause much consternation among the other teams. Canadiens president Pierre Boivin, whose club pours nearly $10-million (all currency U.S.) annually into the revenue-sharing pool, said the situation is being handled by the league.
"I'm not sure that we will have to keep the Phoenix Coyotes afloat for another season, I'm not sure that we did last season either, the monies that were advanced to the Coyotes are, to my understanding, secured. … We have full trust in the people at the league to manage all the franchise situations," he said.
The teams also discussed the salary cap for the coming season, which Bettman said is expected to be at or near the $56.7-million set last year, although it could rise slightly.
The governors' meeting was mostly consumed with presentations about the finances of the past season and projections into the future - the league continues to expect the salary cap to fall in 2010-11.
Bettman's overall assessment of the meeting was: "kind of uneventful."
The governors also discussed the bumpy economic landscape and how to cope with the uncertainty - Boivin said the Canadiens have taken hedging positions on the U.S. dollar - and dealt with the reorganization of the league office's business side and the NHL's digital media unit.