|Vanderbeek's Devils finish two wins shy of a Stanley Cup title (Getty Images)|
Despite the success on the ice this season, falling just two wins shy of a fourth Stanley Cup in franchise history, the New Jersey Devils continue to deal with money issues, specifically owner Jeff Vanderbeek and his mountain of debt.
If it is starting to feel like the Devils are turning into the Phoenix Coyotes 2.0 as far as their uncertain ownership situation is concerned, just look at what the New York Post is reporting now. Soon enough they could look like twins.
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.
But while Bettman has said publicly that he expects the Devils' financial situation to be resolved soon, his behind-the-scenes moves suggest he's far from confident that a deal will get done.
This comes on the heels of a report that, as alluded to by the Post had Vanderbeek close to announcement for an investor that would help solve the debt issue of the franchise.
Naturally, the NHL denied the report when contacted by Kevin Allen of USA Today.
"I don't anticipate either the league having to take over the team, or the team having to file for bankruptcy," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told USA TODAY Sports in an email.
The Devils said they had no comment.
Of course, the NHL already has ownership of the Coyotes as well, something they have been in control of for about three years now. So the league is familiar with the dynamic of owning one of its teams. However, I can't imagine it's something the NHL wants to have to do, so if there is traction to this it makes the situation seem pretty grim.
In a way, though, this news might reflect well on the Coyotes and fans in the desert. I can't imagine the NHL owning two of its teams at one time. Potential legal challenges aside, the Coyotes seem close to being sold, so maybe this is revealing a confidence from the league that a deal will be done there soon. That's merely conjecture on my part, but it just makes a lot of sense. I wouldn't think the rest of the owners in the league would be happy to pay for not one but two other franchises in addition to their own.
Then again, it appears there is a definite immediacy to these proceedings and the NHL might feel it doesn't have much of a choice. A little more from the Post
The commissioner is expected to give Vanderbeek a few more weeks to complete a financial restructuring but will not wait until the Aug. 14 deadline passes, sources said.
The NHL would likely force him out sooner to give suitors enough time to study the team's financials and make an offer to lenders before the bankruptcy deadline, according to sources.
That doesn't leave a ton of time for Vanderbeek to get this all straightened out if keeping the team is his priority and that sure seems to be the case.
Now in contrast to the Coyotes, there would likely be a few more suitors interested in the Devils should they become available. It's a franchise that loses money, true, but it's in the New York area where there aren't just a lot of fans, but a lot of people with money who could buy the team.
This is the biggest reason to wonder if Zach Parise will come back ... if the Devils can afford to keep him. It's in ways like that how this can affect the team on the ice.
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