Frozen Grounds: NHL team rumored for sale

Rich Lam - Getty Images

The Edmonton Oilers owner visited Seattle last week to gain some leverage in regards to a new arena in his town, but the New York Islanders may be a team actually on the move.

Forget about the Edmonton Oilers. They aren't going anywhere. Let's talk about the New York Islanders instead.

Stop me if this sounds at all familiar....

The New York Post broke the news yesterday that former Islander Pat Lafontaine was approached by investors to buy into an ownership group to purchase the team to keep in on Long Island. According to the Post:

Islanders owner Charles Wang, who is seeking a new arena and has vowed not to play a single game at the aged Nassau Coliseum beyond the July 2015 end of his lease, has quietly let it be known that he is willing to sell the franchise if the price is right, sources close to the NHL said.

Now, the New York Post is not the most reliable source of news, but it's been speculated for a while that Wang would either move or sell at the end of the arena lease. Nassau County refuses to build a new arena for the team. And they aren't even all that interested in updating the Nassau Coliseum, having voted down a $400 million referendum in August 2011.

Just last week, a task force released plans to update Nassau and its surroundings. The plans call for over $300 million in improvements. But, at this time, there's no financing to back it up.

Under the plan, developed by a task force of the Association for a Better Long Island, a private developer would spend $100 million to renovate and expand the existing Coliseum. The height of the arena would increase by as much as 25 feet, and there would be between 17,000 and 20,000 seats -- compared with just over 16,000 now.

The site would include a minor league ballpark, a parking garage with room for 6,800 cars that would join the Coliseum and the Long Island Marriott, a new indoor ice rink for practice and public use, and 70,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space. West Hempstead architect Angelo Francis Corva, who designed the plan, left about 25 acres on two parcels undeveloped for a future phase.

If nothing is done to Nassau Coliseum, then the next option is to move the team. In theory, the best location would be to the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn - the new home of the NBA's Nets. However, in its practical application, it's doubtful that the New York Rangers will allow another NHL team to move into the city limits of New York.

An alternative view, ESPN had an article last week that NHL owners may prefer expansion for Seattle, rather than relocation. The NHL gets more money from expansion fees than it does from relocation fees. But, as Greg Wyshynski of Puck Daddy says:

As I've said before, my pet theory is that Seattle gets a relocated franchise and that Quebec and Greater Ontario (i.e. a second Toronto team) are the ones who shovel money into the NHL's account for an expansion fee. But Levin is thinking expansion rather than relocation for his potential Seattle team. (Which, of course, will be called the Sasquatch, per our request.)

Many people are expecting that if Toronto gets a second team, it'll likely be through expansion. In the most recent realigment scenario that the NHL put forth, it was unbalanced, leaving room for two possible expansion teams. Toronto will likely get one, but we'll have to wait and see who gets the other.

An NHL team in Seattle is something that won't break the collective hearts of hockey fans in Vancouver, either.

A Seattle NHL team would give the Canucks their first true geographic rivalry. The closest NHL markets to Vancouver are Calgary and Edmonton, and the once entertaining spark between the clubs has been downgraded somewhat, with the Flames and Oilers struggling near, or at, the bottom of the Western Conference for the past few years.

“I wouldn’t have any objections or reservations at all to a team in Seattle. It’s a great sports town and a great city to visit,” Canucks general manager Mike Gillis told Vancouver Sun sports reporter Elliott Pap Wednesday.

“It would put a team closer than any other team in our time zone. I think we can enhance their business and they can probably enhance ours. So I think it would be great for us.”

For now, the New York Islanders will leave people speculating about relocation. And, they're almost like an expansion team. The Islanders have only made playoffs six times in the past 20 years, the last time being in 2007.

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