The sale of the Arizona Coyotes to businessman Alex Meruelo progressed another step forward on Wednesday as the NHL’s Board of Governors approved the proposed deal at the board’s meeting in Las Vegas, league commissioner Gary Bettman told reporters after the meeting.
The approval is a key step in finalizing the sale, a process that is not yet complete. A statement from Coyotes president and CEO Ahron Cohen said Wednesday that the sale is expected to close later in July.
“The Board of Governors’ unanimous approval today represents a major milestone for the Coyotes organization, our great fans and, of course, for Mr. Alex Meruelo,” Cohen’s statement said. “As we move forward, our team will do everything we can to continue building the positive momentum and progress we have achieved on and off the ice.”
Last week, it became known that Meruelo was, as a source confirmed, “interested” in buying the Coyotes. The deal would make current owner Andrew Barroway a minority owner two years after he became the sole owner of the team in June of 2017.
As Morgan reported, “league sources said that for the foreseeable future, Meruelo’s focus would be on making the team successful in Arizona.”
The team currently plays in Glendale, where its status as a tenant at Gila River Arena had been jeopardized by spats with the city. Now on a year-to-year renewal basis on its lease, the Coyotes franchise would be motivated to move eastward in-part to get closer to its primary ticket-buying demographic.
ESPN’s Emily Kaplan reported Wednesday that Bettman, when asked if the team would be prevented from leaving Arizona under new ownership, said, “Yes for a period of time. But we also understand the importance of a new arena. Because Glendale is not viable longterm [sic].”
As for the Coyotes’ on-ice play, Arizona finished four points behind the Colorado Avalanche for the second Wild Card spot in 2018-19, ending the year with a record of 39-35-8. Its penalty kill (85%) was tied for first in the NHL, and their 221 goals against was the fifth-best in the league. Goal-scoring was an issue, though, as goals-for and power play percentage were each among the worst handful of teams in hockey.
Adding to the forward group, in particular, is a necessary step for furthering the Coyotes’ progress as a contender, and the team’s prospects for doing so this offseason could be affected by an influx of cash.