The Atlanta Thrashers haven’t been sold to a Winnipeg group — yet — but negotiations continue and many in the NHL consider the move of the team to be a foregone conclusion.
Some media jumped the gun yesterday and reported a sale was done, including the influential Globe and Mail, which came through with this reporting:
Sources confirmed (Thursday) that preparations are being made for an announcement Tuesday, confirming the sale and transfer of the Thrashers to True North Sports and Entertainment, which owns and operates the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League and the MTS Centre arena, which would become the NHL teamâ€™s new home.
That the two sides are in serious negotiations isn’t in question, but we’re told the situation is considerably more complex: Atlanta Spirit, which owns the Thrashers, is still in desperate search for a local buyer and has had talks in recent days with one potential investor, but those talks really aren’t leading anywhere: the local buyer has been described as a bargain hunter, with True North having the better deal on the table: $110 million to the Spirit and $60 million to the league in a relocation fee. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has some of the details.
The report in the Globe and Mail was enough to cause Winnipeg fans to rejoice at the corner of Portage and Main, complete with a slew of Winnipeg Jets jerseys. (Interestingly, one of the True North investors is also an owner of the Globe and Mail, so the report was not entirely implausible.)
Indeed, the fact the Thrashers are moving is considered a fait accompli in NHL circles, as the league has been preparing at least one schedule that includes a Winnipeg team. A big issue, and one where teams are already jockeying, is any divisional alignment to accommodate a Winnipeg team. One potential schedule moves the Nashville Predators to the Southeast Division, with the Winnipeg team going to the Central Division. Another scenario has the new Winnipeg going to the Northwest Division, with the Minnesota Wild going to the Central and the Preds going to the Southeast. The Detroit Red Wings have lobbied to move to the Eastern Conference, but that move would be considerably more complex in term of divisional realignments.
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