Things appear to be moving rather quickly in what was looking to be a dire ownership situation for the New Jersey Devils. Less than a week after reports surfaced that the club was facing a league takeover in the wake of owner Jeff Vanderbeek's mounting debt, Tom Gulitti of The Record reported a deal to sell the Devils could be reached in a matter of days.
Josh Harris, owner of the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers, is at the center of the group nearing a purchase of the Devils according to Gulitti.
More from The Record's Fire & Ice blog run by Gulitti:
The sale has progressed quickly in the last week with Harris and his partners and, though the deal was not “done” yet, no hang-ups were expected to derail their efforts to finally bring an end to the Devils' ownership saga with an official announcement. Another source said the only thing holding up the completion of the sale is the approval of the NHL's Board of Governors, which is expected to complete its vote by Thursday.
Harris' group emerged Friday as the choice to take over a controlling ownership stake in the team and the operating rights of Prudential Center in Newark. Another individual familiar with the ownership process said that current Devils owners Jeff Vanderbeek will retain a minority ownership share and continue to be involved with the team after the completion of the sale.
As part of the sale, Harris' group would cover Vanderbeek's debt, which Forbes estimated at $230 million in a report last week. Harris purchased the 76ers in 2011, having made his fortune as the co-founder of private equity firm Apollo Global Management and has an estimated worth of $2 billion according to Gulitti.
Before any relocation rumors get started, Gulitti reports that the Prudential Center, which opened in 2007, will remain the home of the Devils after the sale.
This is potentially good news for Devils fans who haven't had a lot to celebrate the last two offseasons. After suffering the loss of former captain Zach Parise last summer in free agency, Ilya Kovalchuk 's retirement fom the NHL a month ago and the always-prominent ownership concerns, this could be a chance for the franchise to turn the page.
With the financial troubles looking like they will be solved, barring anything unexpected, general manager Lou Lamoriello can get back to trying to put a contender on the ice.
The team was extremely active in unrestricted free agency, but still has to re-sign rising star and restricted free agent forward Adam Henrique, who is due a hefty raise.
The Devils have become one of the league's premier franchises over the last 20 years, but Vanderbeek's well-publicized financial woes have hung over the team like a dark cloud recently. A new deep-pocketed owner could give the club a chance to put those concerns behind, at least for now.