Coyotes, Utah group have talked about relocating NHL franchise from Arizona

Apr 10, 2024, 8:29 AM | Updated: 5:33 pm

The Utah Jazz’s ownership group and the Arizona Coyotes have had “significant progress on the framework” for the NHL franchise to be sold and relocate to Salt Lake City, according to multiple reports and confirmed by Arizona Sports’ John Gambadoro.

The NHL is currently drafting a 2024-25 schedule that includes two versions. One has the Arizona Coyotes franchise playing in Salt Lake City, as Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli first reported on Wednesday.

The league sent a memo to its teams confirming the reports about talks of relocation and added the situation was still fluid.

Arizona Sports’ John Gambadoro adds the Coyotes have three options: To sell the team; temporarily relocate; or sell the team with an agreement that an expansion franchise could return to Arizona if owner Alex Meruelo can secure Phoenix land the Coyotes were hoping to use to keep the current franchise in town.

Gambadoro last week reported that Meruelo spoke with potential buyers for the team. Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith went public with questions about what to name a hockey franchise that he’s already publicly stumped to own in the near future.

More from Seravalli:

As the NHL has been working on dual paths, multiple sources indicate Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo is intimately involved in both. The first, of course, involves the Coyotes remaining in the Phoenix area by building a new arena via Arizona State Land Trust auction, which is scheduled for June 27.

ESPN reports the situation is fluid, but the NHL is skeptical of the Coyotes’ Phoenix arena plans and has prepared for the Jazz owners to take control of the team.

The Coyotes declined to comment on the reports.

In Arizona, the Coyotes have remained steadfast that Meruelo is targeting a piece of land in northeast Phoenix to build a new arena. However, the team would not be able to own that land until winning a June 27 auction.

A potential move to Utah is the latest news on the Coyotes’ plans after a failed public vote in May squashed the NHL franchise’s plans to build a new arena in Tempe.

Seravalli reports that Meruelo could sell to Smith Entertainment Group for more than $1.2 billion, which would include a relocation fee. Smith has said the Jazz’s home arena, Delta Center, is capable of hosting hockey until a new hockey-focused arena is built.

“We are interested. We are ready, and we’re a partner,” Smith told The Athletic. “The arena is done. We think we have a solution. And that’s my message to the NHL.”

Servalli added that the situation remains fluid.

Sources continually cautioned that no deal is done, Meruelo remains steadfast in his belief that he can build a gleaming new palace for the Desert Dogs, and the NHL is working hard to avoid a long and protracted battle that could surface if Meruelo is not satisfied with the terms of a transaction. Sources briefed on the ongoing discussions indicated Meruelo could receive up to $1 billion for the Coyotes. The exact figures of the proposed transaction are speculated and all details and mechanics of a proposed deal remain fluid.

The Arizona State Land Department last Thursday listed the auction for the tract of land on the northwest corner of the Loop 101 and Scottsdale Road near Desert Ridge Marketplace.

The tract of land would require the Coyotes to pay for development costs such as water, sewage and additional roadway changes to handle large crowds of an entertainment district. Neighboring Scottsdale and the Arizona State Land Department have written in some requirements about what would be on the team, though Meruelo in a statement acknowledged he could be on the hook for $100 million just to develop the land that is currently without utilities.

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