- Craig Custance
It's quite possible Seattle was already the front-runner to land the next NHL franchise either through relocation or expansion. But the Maloof family's decision to sell the Sacramento Kings to Chris Hansen's Seattle group could both strengthen Seattle's case while adding a new concern.
According to ESPN.com's Marc Stein, the Seattle group will file for NBA relocation before March 1 with the intent of playing next season in Seattle. The sale still needs to be approved by the NBA's board of governors.
So what does that mean for the NHL's future in Seattle?
"It's really too early to say," said one NHL source on Monday.
When NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was asked about the possible impact of an NBA team in Seattle following the ratification of the CBA, he declined to elaborate on it.
"That's not something we're focused on," Bettman said.
That may change. The future of the Phoenix Coyotes remains uncertain, and there's been plenty of speculation in NHL rinks that prospective buyer Greg Jamison doesn't have the funding to finalize the purchase of the Coyotes. According to the Phoenix Business Journal, Jamison recently registered a second business in Arizona, Arizona Hockey Partners LLC, which would be the company that would own the Coyotes. According to the report, the group has until the end of January to purchase the Coyotes and finalize the 20-year, $308 million arena deal with the city of Glendale.
If that falls through, the possibility of a new arena in Seattle could open up another option for the NHL, and there's a payoff for Hansen to make it happen.
Hansen can ultimately get an extra $80 million in the arena deal if he lures an NHL team to Seattle to give the arena another tenant.
"In the arrangement we have with Mr. Hansen, there are two paths the financing can go down. In a scenario where they only have an NBA team, we would buy the land and the new arena for $120 million," Seattle city councilman O'Brien said when we spoke in September. "In a scenario where they have an NBA and NHL team, we would buy the land and arena for $200 million. The amount of debt we're willing to put in the arrangement varies on the amount of teams."
There is a downside to the NBA's move to Seattle. There is some concern inside NHL offices as to whether or not Seattle can support both an NBA and an NHL team. There's definitely an advantage to be the first one in a new city between the NHL and NBA, which is why a location like Las Vegas has long intrigued the league. There's also the issue of finding an owner. Hansen has consistently said he's not interested in owning the Seattle NHL team -- only the NBA franchise.
Don Levin, the owner of the American Hockey League's Chicago Wolves, has expressed interest in owning a Seattle NHL team, and those who know him say he would be a great addition to the NHL owners fraternity.
"He's an exceptional person and owner," said Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, who worked closely with Levin in Chicago. "A very big fan of the game, competes very hard and enjoys the sport. With all those things, yeah, I think he would fit in as a tremendous owner."