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McKenzie: Coyotes franchise news to pick up soon

Bob McKenzie

10/17/2011 9:45:04 PM

It's been pretty quiet on the Phoenix Coyotes' franchise future front lately, but that may change fairly soon.

At some point in the not-too-distant future, it's expected the NHL will endorse one of two groups that are currently showing some interest in the purchase of the franchise for the purposes of keeping it in Phoenix.

One group is headed up by former San Jose Shark president Greg Jamison and the other involves sports magnate Jerry Reinsdorf, who's been in and out of this process almost from the beginning. Right now, he's back in apparently. Jamison's group would appear to be the underdog; Reinsdorf's group the favorite.

But in any case, the field needs to be narrowed to one so that group can get down to serious negotiations with the City of Glendale and the NHL to take control of the franchise, which is currently being operated by the league with losses of up to $25 million being underwritten by the City of Glendale.

The aim would appear to be to have a signed, sealed and delivered agreement by sometime early in 2012. If that were to happen, it would mark the end of a long, messy saga and the Coyotes could have some degree of stability knowing they're staying put for the foreseeable future.

But if no agreement of that nature is in place in the New Year, there's every reason to believe the league will look at putting the franchise on the open market and, subject to league approval of course, entertain offers from ownership groups who would be buying it to move it elsewhere.

One thing would appear to be certain: This is the last season that the NHL will operate as the caretaker owner and the City of Glendale will underwrite losses. So the Coyotes' franchise will have a new owner next season, it just remains to be seen in which city they play. Obviously, as has been the case all along, the NHL's preference is for that location to be Phoenix.

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The Columbus Blue Jackets, minus the suspended James Wisniewski, are off to a 0-4-1 start and the news only gets worse from there. The Jackets' other prize off-season acquisition, Jeff Carter, has a hairline fracture on the same foot that required surgery following the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs and there's no telling when he might play again.

The Blue Jackets initially suggested Carter would perhaps only miss one game and be able to play through the pain. While no timeline has officially been specified by anyone, Carter's agent Rick Curran did say the player will play when the injury is healed, which is to suggest it may be one thing to play through the pain of a fractured foot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but it may be another thing to do it five games into the regular season. Actually, Carter has been playing hurt since originally injuring the foot on the second day of training camp.

So that all sounds an awful lot like Carter going from day-to-day to perhaps week-to-week, which would not be great news for a club that had such high hopes to start the season and now finds itself on the verge of getting buried in the first two weeks.

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There continues to be a lot of Kyle Turris trade rumors surfacing, including some that say teams have made "significant" offers to the Phoenix Coyotes; all of which is apparently news to Phoenix GM Dave Maloney, who continues to be adamant that the Coyotes are not trading the restricted free agent who hasn't come to terms on a new deal, and that if he plays anywhere in the NHL this season, it will be Phoenix or bust. If Turris isn't signed by Dec. 1st, he's not eligible to play in the NHL this season.

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Colorado Avalanche General Manager Greg Sherman has as many as eight restricted free agents coming due at the end of this season – including cornerstone players Matt Duchene and Erik Johnson – but it doesn't look as though he's in any hurry to sign them to extensions.

Sherman said he's comfortable waiting until the end of the season to negotiate new deals for the RFAs, which is a stark contrast to how New York Islanders General Manager Garth Snow approached things with his cornerstone player, John Tavares. Tavares, with one year left on his entry level deal, signed a six-year, $33 million contract before the season began.

Tavares and Duchene are, of course, forever linked. Tavares was taken first-overall in the 2009 NHL entry draft; Duchene was taken third-overall. They've posted almost identical numbers in their first two years in the league; each had 24 goals in their rookie season, and each had 67 points in their second season.

One might argue they'd be worthy of similar contracts, but with Tavares signing early, it will be interesting to see what kind of numbers Duchene puts up this season and whether that means he could end up with substantially more - or less - depending on his performance.

Colorado's other RFAs besides Duchene and Johnson are Ryan O'Reilly, Peter Mueller, T.J. Galiardi, Kyle Quincy, Ryan Wilson and Kevin Porter.