by PuckStopsHere on 06/21/09 at 04:44 AM ET
The Montreal Canadiens have an agreement in principle to sell the team. Current owner George Gillett bought the Habs and the Bell Centre (then called the Molson Centre) for $185 million US. Over the past year he has looked at his world wide holdings in an effort to adapt to the current economic downturn and decided to sell some assets including the Montreal Canadiens. An agreement in principle exists for Geoff, Andrew and Justin Molson to buy the team. Exact details have not been released, but it is expected that the Molsons could pay as much as $550 million. NHL approval for the sale may not come until August.
This sale and its price clearly show that there are “two NHLs”. There are high valued franchises in good markets with rapidly escalating values. These teams have no problem with payroll and could easily afford to pay well above the salary cap were it allowed.
There is also an NHL of teams like the Phoenix Coyotes. These teams are struggling financially. In Phoenix’s case, it isn’t clear that anyone wants to keep them in their current market.
The weak financial teams are struggling to survive. They do not have close to the value of the stronger teams. Jim Balsillie’s bid to buy the Coyotes, which included money to pay off current debts and was inflated because he wanted the team in another market, was less than half what the Canadiens are expected to sell for.
The NHL would be best served if a few of the weaker markets were allowed to die. It would allow the stronger markets to flourish without having to carry their weak sisters with revenue sharing and reduced salary caps. Why does the NHL need 30 teams? A smaller league with only the strong markets would be a better league.
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