Oilers owner Daryl Katz led a group of team brass on a tour of Seattle's KeyArena on Monday, sparking speculation that he may move the team out West if he doesn't get an arena deal finalized in Edmonton.
Katz and other Oilers brass - including team president and COO Patrick LaForge and president of hockey operations Kevin Lowe - toured the city's multipurpose arena that housed the NBA's Seattle SuperSonics until 2008 when the team left for Oklahoma City.
"I can confirm that Daryl Katz, Patrick LaForge, Kevin Lowe and others from the Oilers leadership group are in Seattle for meetings and to attend the Seahawks game," executive vice president of the Edmonton Arena Corporation for the Katz Group Bob Black said in a statement issued Monday night.
"We remain committed to working with City Administration to achieve a deal commensurate with what Winnipeg and Pittsburgh have done to sustain the NHL in those small markets. If we can achieve such a deal, the Oilers will remain in Edmonton and we can get on with the important work of developing the new arena and investing in the continued revitalization of Edmonton's downtown core.
Nonetheless, and as the City of Edmonton is aware, the Katz Group has been listening to proposals from a number of potential NHL markets for some time. After more than four years of trying to secure an arena deal and with less than 24 months remaining on the Oilers' lease at Rexall Place, this is only prudent and should come as no surprise.
We are extremely grateful to Oilers' fans for their patience and loyalty as we work through this process towards what we sincerely hope will be a long and successful future for the Oilers in Edmonton. We have no further comment on the status of our discussions with other markets at this time."
The news comes on the heels of reports that Katz was frustrated with Edmonton city council over stalled negotiations for a new arena in Edmonton.
On Tuesday, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman released the following statement regarding the arena situation.
"We continue to believe that an arena deal is achievable and with a new arena, there should be no reason to have any doubts about the future of the Oilers in Edmonton," said Bettman.
Speaking to the Edmonton Journal last week, Katz said, "What's come out of the city over the past several days, to be frank, is unfair, untrue and totally counterproductive if what we're trying to do is secure the Oilers' future in Edmonton and have us participate in the development of a new arena and sports entertainment district."
Former Oiler Wayne Gretzky was also in attendance, but denied any involvement in Seattle/Katz issue.
"I'm 100 per cent not involved with the Oilers or the NHL," Gretzky told TSN via email on Tuesday. "I went to watch a (Seattle Seahawks) game and went home right after. I'm very confident that the Katz group and the city of Edmonton will get a deal done that would keep the Oilers in Edmonton where they belong."