Even though they lost in the Stanley Cup Final, things seemed to be perking up on the financial front for the New Jersey Devils.
They made more in playoff ticket sales than every movie made at the box office this weekend save for "Madagascar 3"; and the Devils didn't have the benefit of a talking zebra in an afro wig. There was also a report that Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek had located an ownership group willing to buy into the team and help ease their considerable debt — roughly $80 million owed to the banks.
Well, the N.Y. Post did what it always does for Devils ownership stories: Provided needles for those party balloons. In an exclusive on Monday, John Kosman reports that the NHL is preparing to take over the Devils if the excrement hits the oscillator in August:
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is preparing to take control of the money-losing hockey franchise in the event Vanderbeek fails to refinance the Devils' debt before a looming Aug. 14 deadline, The Post has learned.
In recent days, the commissioner's office has told potential suitors to be ready in case he moves on the team and pushes Vanderbeek aside, a source close to the situation said. Vanderbeek is near a deal to sell a majority stake to a mystery investor, which would allow him to keep control of the Eastern Conference champions, one source said. The proceeds from a sale would be used to repay lenders much of the $77 million in past due debt.
Bettman noted at his "state of the NHL address" on May 30 that Vanderbeek was working on an "equity raise" for the team that he hoped he could "pull off" in the next few weeks.
The Post reports that Bettman and the NHL would likely take over before the August deadline, "to give suitors enough time to study the team's financials and make an offer to lenders before the bankruptcy deadline, according to sources."
This is probably the NHL signaling that taking over the Devils would be the last resort; and not necessarily that any solution to their ownership and debt problems is falling apart.
It's a Plan B ... and even then, Vanderbeek could buy himself some time by placing the team in bankruptcy.
Or maybe the NHL just has an league-owned team quota to fill, given that the Phoenix Coyotes look like they're staying under new ownership. You know, at least on this morning.