NHL takes another step toward moving Coyotes to Utah

The league’s executive committee has reportedly approved the relocation plan.

Arizona Coyotes goaltender Connor Ingram, center, celebrates a win against the St. Louis Blues with Coyotes left wing Michael Carcone (53) and Coyotes center Alexander Kerfoot, left, as time expires in the third period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, in Tempe, Ariz. The Coyotes won 4-1. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

NHL leaders have taken the next step in moving the Arizona Coyotes to Utah.

The league’s executive committee has approved the franchise’s relocation, Sportico reported Monday, citing unnamed sources. The decision now goes to the league’s 32 teams, voting as the Board of Governors.

Here’s what we know so far.

When could a deal be announced?

After a failed yearslong battle to secure land for a hockey arena in the Phoenix area, Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo is in negotiations with the NHL regarding the sale of his team to Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith. On Monday, The Athletic reported, “Meruelo and the Smiths haven’t been in direct contact during negotiations. The NHL is brokering the entire deal.”

Multiple reports have suggested an announcement could come on Thursday, the day after the Coyotes play their final game of the season. The Athletic reports that the NHL wants to get a deal finalized before the playoffs begin this weekend:

Under the terms of the deal being discussed, the NHL would pay Meruelo $1 billion for the organization’s hockey operations assets — the same expansion fee he’d be required to fork over to bring a team back to the Phoenix area — and would then flip them to Salt Lake City owners Ryan and Ashley Smith of Smith Entertainment Group for $1.2 billion, with the extra $200 million distributed among existing NHL owners, per league sources. …

Nothing’s done until it’s done, but there is an understanding among the parties that it’s preferable to try to wrap the sale up before Saturday’s start of the Stanley Cup playoffs so as not to overshadow the most important part of the NHL calendar, but obstacles remain coming out of the weekend, per sources.

Among them was the precise language around what conditions Meruelo would have to satisfy and on what timeline to be granted the contractual rights to a future expansion franchise in Arizona. What is known is that he won’t be able to sell or transfer those rights. They will be his to exercise alone.

— The Athletic

Utah’s NHL team would need a new name

As part of the NHL’s deal with Meruelo, he would keep the Coyotes’ brand, logos and history to be used if and when he is awarded an expansion team in the near future.

That means Utah is looking at a rebrand one way or another.

What the Coyotes are saying?

Heading into last weekend, the Coyotes players seemed to be unclear of their future, The Athletic reported.

“We saw it everywhere just like everyone,” Lawson Crouse said. “We don’t know anything more than what everyone else is seeing.”

Meruelo’s last statement came on Saturday, saying he was focused on a “myriad of issues that are unresolved.” He declined to comment further.

“However, you have my commitment that I am going to speak on all of these issues and publicly address all of your concerns as promptly as possible,” Meruelo added.