NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly admits that Jim Balsillie's bid for the Phoenix Coyotes caught league officials by surprise and says there have been multiple offers to keep the team in Arizona.
Speaking on XM Radio's NHL Home Ice on Friday, Daly said the league had been working with Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes on potential ownership options right up until the team filed for bankruptcy on Tuesday.
"The discussions between Mr. Moyes and Mr. Balsillie were conducted surreptitiously," Daly said on NHL Home Ice. "We had been working with Mr. Moyes for many months on potential ownership options in Phoenix. We were actually encouraged by Mr. Moyes to pursue a local owner, which we did and we thought we had the issue resolved. We were bringing that solution to Mr. Moyes on Tuesday when we heard that he had filed for bankruptcy. This clearly was a surprise to all of us and we'll have to deal with it."
Daly went on to say that the league is aware of at least three potential suitors for the franchise, including one that would have satisfied the needs of the creditors.
"There have been at least three expressions of interest with serious money behind them to operate this team in Glendale," Daly told the radio station. "The most recent expression and the one that's farthest along would have involved all of the creditors being paid all their money back and having stable ownership and a fully funded franchise going forward."
According to Daly, filing for bankruptcy was an unnecessary step for the franchise and one that was done by Moyes to get out from under the existing lease with the city of Glendale, Arizona.
"There was no need to put the team in bankruptcy, Daly said on XM Radio's NHL Home Ice. "The sole purpose of putting the team in bankruptcy was to try to avoid their lease which isn't at all certain and an effort to relocate the franchise. So it's really an abuse of process; a sham bankruptcy in our view."
From a financial standpoint, Daly argues that Moyes would stand to gain more from the $212.5 million bid from Balsillie but not necessarily the creditors.
"The only person who generates additional cash out of the Balsillie bid for relocation to Hamilton would be Jerry Moyes," Daly told the radio station. "None of the creditors would get any additional money from that bid."
When asked if the Coyotes would be in Phoenix next season and three seasons from now, Daly responded, "Yes, I do," to both questions.
The NHL and Moyes are expected back in court on May 19 as the bankruptcy case resumes in Phoenix.