Ding dong. The witch is dead. Maybe. Almost. We'll know more next month. But in a ruling that perhaps surprised only the NHL, the Phoenix bankruptcy judge overhearing the Phoenix Coyotes bankruptcy today announced that the Jerry Reinsdorf no-money bid, the mythical-yet-to-be-submitted bid from Ice Edge Holdings, and the $212.5 million bid of Jim Balsillie will all be considered by the bankruptcy court in an auction on September 10.
Originally, there were to be two auctions regarding the Coyotes -- a keep the team in Phoenix auction which was supposed to have been done today, and the September 10 open to relocation auction if the original auction was deemed to be unsatisfactory. But Jerry Reinsdorf's bid has proven to be a bit inadequate, and he's still attempting to negotiate with the city of Glendale, AZ over the use of the Coyotes arena, so he and the NHL requested a delay so as to work on the bid. The judge granted that delay, with the result being that all bids will be considered on the same day.
This is bad news for Phoenix, Reinsdorf, and the NHL seeing as how the judge and the leading creditor have both stated that they prefer Balsillie's bid, seeing as how actual money is involved and the creditors are paid off. But in even worse news for Phoenix, Reinsdorf, and the NHL, the judge also stated that the auction is "open to any and all bidders including, but not limited to P.S.E. [Balsillie]."
What that, in effect, means is that the everybody is welcome to bid on the team, and there has been speculation that once the team was open to relocation more bidders might leap in. So it's possible, seeing that this team can now be moved and is not stuck with having to stay in Phoenix, that other parties are going to submit bids to purchase the team and move it, and the NHL has virtually no way to prevent this unless they find a way to get Reinsdorf to offer up at least as much cash as Balsillie.
There is also going to be a court hearing next Tuesday so as to address the fact that the NHL last week rejected Balsillie's bid. My thinking is that the judge will hear the NHL out, tell them to shut up, and get on with the real work. Considering some of the owners they have let into the league, like "Boots" Del Biaggio for example -- it's funny to listen to Minnesota Wild owner Craig Leipold go on about Balsillie being a liar when you consider that Leipold thought Del Biaggio was an honest guy -- I don't think the judge is going to be too sympathetic to the NHL's concerns. Especially since the judge's concern is getting the money back to the creditors, not helping Gary Bettman dig himself out of this grave he's buried himself in.
So the future of the Coyotes in Phoenix is dead. Almost. Not quite. But in a minute. They'll be stone dead soon. It won't be long.
I want to be clearer about something: with the bidding process thrown open to anybody who wants to buy the club and move it, I wouldn't be shocked or surprised if someone makes a bid that surpasses that of Balsillie's and ends up with the team.