Over the past few weeks we've been getting reports and rumors that Tom Gaglardi is the leading bidder to purchase the Dallas Stars, with one report stating that he was entering the fabled "30 day window" in which he holds exclusive negotiating rights for the team.
We have been saying that there's enough smoke around Gaglardi that at this point we can be nearly certain these reports are true; today, Mike Heika confirmed that Tom Gaglardi is indeed the leading bidder for the team and he has until late May to put together the paperwork needed to make a formal bid.
In his blog post today (that might get moved behind the paywall at anytime), Heika sheds light on a number of situations that have only been hinted at, citing information from two different sources.
The first, that Gaglardi is in the exclusive 30-day window, is the most significant. This isn't about bidders toying with the idea of purchasing the Dallas Stars; instead, Gaglardi has out together an offer that is "significantly" better than the other offers and the lenders are apparently happy enough with this bid they are ready to move forward with the sale.
I can't express enough how big this news is. If all goes well, this sale could be completed by June.
More after the jump.
Now, the caveat here is "if all goes well". Per Heika:
Gaglardi's people have to fashion a legal document that will satisfy the lawyers for the lenders and the NHL. Then, the plan is to put that offer before other bidders to see if they want to go over it. If they do, Gaglardi would have the opportunity to then go over their bids.
The lenders, the Stars and the NHL would like to get any kind of controversy out of the way before they try to send the team through an organized bankruptcy hearing. If they can present a clean deal, the court case could take only three days (the same way the Cubs did it with the Ricketts family back in 2009). That would allow the Stars to avoid the drama that came during the sale of the Texas Rangers in bankruptcy court.
But while this is what the plan is, even the people making the plan caution that there are several potential problems that could creep up.
Right now, it's clear that Gaglardi's deal is much more significant than that of Doug Miller's or any of the other secret bidders there might be for this franchise. Last month, we learned that Doug Miller had emerged as the leading bidder for the team but that his bid might be nothing more than a "stalking horse", necessary to get the sale process underway and get the other interested parties moving forward with their bids. I'm sure that Miller is still serious about purchasing the club and he was promised the chance to outbid any other offers that were made.
There is also no news on whether Mark Cuban's name is involved with any bids. Based on the fact that Cuban's name has come up only on wishlists, I wouldn't hold my breath anytime soon. There's always the chance that he jumps in with a counter offer, but I find it unlikely at this point.
As per every report we've read the past two weeks, it also appears that this case heading to bankruptcy court is a near certainty. It's just going to be the only way for the sale to be completed in a legal manner that satisfies the lenders and settles all the debts of Tom Hicks and Hicks Sports Group. I understand everyone's fears about heading to court and there are certainly some cautions being flown about stating that anything can happen with this sale once it is in the court system. The only hope we have is that Gaglardi is able to put together a deal that satisfies all parties and moves the sale cleanly through bankruptcy court.
The good new is that in this case, unlike the Rangers sale, outright greed is not exactly a factor. Especially when you factor that Tom Hicks personally is not involved with this process. One of the sticking points in the Rangers sale was the parking lots that Hicks personally owned, as well as the fact that it was allegedly Hicks' people that initiated the process with the lenders of starting the fight over Chuck Greenberg's bid.
There just isn't that sort of problem in this case. The issues that may be raised is going to be whether this bid is significant enough to please the lenders, all that are involved, so that there isn't a battle in court. Let's all just hope and pray.
The other significant portion from this report by Heika is what is going on in the front office, as the Stars are in need of a new coach and Joe Nieuwendyk is forced to maneuver and plan without any idea of the budget that he'll be working with.
This includes the search for a new coach:
While potential candidates like Texas Stars coach Glen Gulutzan or Montreal assistant coach Kirk Muller could be available soon for interviews because their teams recently finished their respective seasons, Nieuwendyk said he was not in a hurry.
``We'll take our time, we'll be well-organized and we'll move forward slowly,'' said Nieuwendyk. ``There's no reason to rush this.''
As much as there is a chance the Stars lose a candidate to one of the other four NHL teams seeking a new head coach, they really have no choice but to wait right now.
It's uncertain whether Nieuwendyk needs to wait because of a lack of a budget or because he needs to wait to see what sort of coach he needs -- and has the ability -- to hire, depending on the budget he has for next season. The Stars are basically operating in the blind right now, with no clue what the outlook is going to look like in the near or long-term future. If the sale is completed to Gaglardi, there's no guarantee that the Stars are suddenly going to spend to the cap and be able to get the free agents needed to move this team forward.
It's also unknown whether the coaches Joe wants to hire will be willing to step into a situation that exists presently in Dallas, without knowing what sort of future he's stepping into.
Nieuwendyk is adamant that the Stars are being patient, that they haven't started the official search yet and you get the feeling that he really can't make any formal offers until he has a good idea of what is going to happen with the sale of the team. It's likely that he's reached out to someone like Kirk Muller, who may be willing to take the job, but both sides are willing to wait and see what happens with Gaglardi.
Now, all we can do is just wait.