Nominally, the NHL's goal in trying to buy the Phoenix Coyotes out of bankruptcy is to keep them operating in that same unhealthy market by dishing the franchise off to a third party as soon as humanly possible.
The reality is, the chances of some anonymous deep-pocketed gazillionaire doing commissioner Gary Bettman that favour over the long term is virtually nil - which brings up a delicious scenario for anyone hoping to see a seventh Canadian team join the NHL sooner rather than later.
What if the NHL is successful in its bid, but predictably, a year down the road, drops the usual $30-million in operating losses in Phoenix? Would there not be tremendous pressure from the board of governors to ponder relocating the team at that juncture, rather than continue to pour dollars down what has, at this stage, been a bottomless money pit? And if that does become the over-riding sentiment, wouldn't the Toronto Coyotes - operating out of the Air Canada Centre - sound like a financially appealing alternative?
Think of it this way. The Maple Leafs will have any number of objections to a team entering into its market, but the biggest must surely be the threat of a rival team coming in and constructing a new state-of-the-art facility that would compete with the ACC for Fleetwood Mac and Britney Spears and all the major touring showbiz acts that arenas use to fill the dates around their anchor sports tenants.
Assuming that the genie is indeed out of the bottle and there will be a team coming to Southern Ontario sooner rather than later, why shouldn't it be the NHL's own team? Surely, they could find any number of bidders willing to operate it as a second team, playing out of the ACC, as opposed to the sucker-born-every-minute that they'd need to keep the pain going in Phoenix? Moreover, it would have the added benefit of keeping the profit in-house and not end up in Jim Balsillie's pockets, which presumably, is their greatest fear in Balsillie possibly landing the team.
Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment isn't going to love that scenario, because in a perfect world, they want Toronto and area to themselves in perpetuity. But if it is expressed to them as the lesser of any number of evils - a paying tenant, right under their own roof, with no fear of competition from a new arena - they might even agree. Or at least be pressured to consider the option.