Arizona Coyotes officials will explore relocation if the team loses a legal battle with the city of Glendale, an NHL source confirmed to TSN.
The source said team officials believe they can raise the cash required to pay other NHL team owners a relocation fee after an ownership shakeup this week.
An NHL governor told TSN that it's hard to predict the price of a relocation fee, and said it would probably depend on the market to which the Coyotes' owners are looking to relocate.
On Monday, the Coyotes announced that majority owner Andrew Barroway had reduced his investment in the team. A source told TSN his share of the Coyotes was cut from 51 per cent to about 30 per cent.
"Andy just got in over his head," the NHL source said.
The Coyotes have at least 12 limited partners, and at least several of those, including David Duckett and Gary Drummond, signed a term sheet on Monday to buy back some of Barroway's shares.
Barroway had obtained a loan, or vendor's note, from some of his partners to fund his purchase, and that note was to be repaid by month's end.
Glendale officials were scheduled to meet Tuesday to review their decision last week to cancel the arena management agreement, a deal that saw the city pay the Coyotes $15 million per year.
Since the city's 5-2 vote last week, two former city employees have come under scrutiny: former city attorney Craig Tindall and one-time assistant city manager Julie Frisoni.
At the heart of the city's legal defence is the claim Tindall and Frisoni had conflicts of interest. Tindall was fired by the city as its attorney but was still receiving severance when he started working with the Coyotes and when the arena deal was signed.
A prior investigation by the State Bar of Arizona cleared Tindall of any wrongdoing.
Frisoni was Glendale's public relations director from 2009 to 2013. In an interview with TSN, she said the city's suggestions that she may have had a conflict are "ludicrous."
"At the time the Coyotes deal was negotiated, in 2013, I was the city's communications director," Frisoni said. "As any communications director, my role was to communicate the happenings of the city. My job was to receive deal points from the city attorney and city manager and relay them to the public in a way that was understandable.
"That was my role. I never had a seat at the table. I was never involved in back and forth negotiations between the city and the team. This shows the desperation that they have in an attempt to achieve their political goals."
It's unclear what evidence city attorney Michael Bailey has about Frisoni or Tindall.
Before Tuesday's meeting, Glendale Vice Mayor Ian Hugh said he supports Bailey.
"If I didn't believe him, I wouldn't have voted to void the contract," Hugh said. "I have confidence in our legal department."
Coyotes spokesman Rich Nairn did not return an email seeking comment.
The Coyotes and Glendale officials return to court on June 29 for a scheduling session. They expect a judge will hear arguments over the team's request for an injunction over four days in late July and early August.
Either way, an NHL source dismissed the possibility that the Coyotes might return to the U.S. Airways Center this year.
"There's just not enough time, the schedule is out in a week, and the schedule for the arena is already booked up with NBA and arena football, it can't work," the source said.
It's impossible to say how long the legal battle might last. After the July and August hearing dates, both sides will need to begin the discovery process, and then make plans for a possible trial.