Commissioner: NHL ‘exploring our options’ with Coyotes

Despite widespread reports that the Arizona Coyotes are set to be sold and moved to Salt Lake City, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman refused to confirm the transaction.

Bettman, speaking Tuesday at the CAA World Congress of Sports in Los Angeles, merely lamented the franchise’s arena difficulties in the Phoenix area.

Earlier this month, Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo unveiled a plan to buy a 110-acre site in Phoenix and build a privately funded arena.

However, last week numerous media outlets reported that the franchise was set to be sold ahead of a move to Utah. The NHL’s executive committee approved the team’s move on Monday, according to Sportico.

The Coyotes are about to conclude their second season of playing home games at 5,000-seat Mullett Arena on the Arizona State University campus in Tempe, Ariz.

Bettman said Tuesday, according to Sports Business Journal, that Meruelo’s new arena likely would need three to five years to be up and running, while the Coyotes were pointing at a three-year timeline.

“We’re exploring options as to how to deal with (the arena situation) because, particularly for the players, it isn’t an ideal circumstance,” Bettman said, per SBJ. “I know there’s a lot of rumors and speculation and, when we have something to announce, we’ll do it. But we are exploring our options.”

The league is set to buy the team from Meruelo for $1 billion before reselling it to Utah Jazz owners Ryan and Ashley Smith for $1.2 billion to $1.3 billion, according to SBJ. The portion above $1 billion would be split among the other teams as a relocation fee, per the report. Meruelo also reportedly would be given a chance to buy an expansion team when the Phoenix arena is in place.