Today's big event involving the New Jersey Devils was originally going to be nothing more than a press conference at Yankee Stadium. This was to formally announce the outdoor game between the Devils and Our Hated Rivals on January 26, 2014. Bryce Salvador and Andy Greene - sporting an "A" on his jersey, I guess that means he got Kovalchuk's spot - were present as was Lou. Of course, a morning news report popped up to add some more drama.
This morning, Mike Ozanian of Forbes wrote that the National Hockey League was going to take over the Devils. Citing past Forbes articles and ace reporter Josh Kosman at the New York Post, the team's debt has ballooned and so therefore Jeff Vanderbeek would not have the funding to keep up with the team. Instead of declaring bankruptcy, Ozanian's sources claim the league would take control in September until a buyer is sought out in the following month. Strong stuff, right? The uproar on Twitter at least was, well, what one would expect from a Twitter outrage.
A little more than an hour later, at the presser, the outrage and Ozanian's article got severely dented. These two posts by Tom Gulitti at Fire & Ice and David Giambusso of NJ.com contain the meat of the response. Bill Daly and Gary Bettman both rejected the notion of a league takeover. According to Gulitti's reporting, he Commissioner said any suggestion of the league taking over the Devils "is not accurate" and the deputy commissioner not only said he doesn't believe they will take over the team but he doesn't think they'll go bankrupt.
The latter shouldn't be a surprise as both Gulitti and Giambusso reported that the team will be sold in the coming days. Gulitti stated there are two groups involved: one led by attorney Andrew Barroway and Philadelphia 76ers owner Josh Harris. Giambusso noted that the AP reported that apparently Bill Gallacher may be in the mix. It's been over a month since Barroway was initially brought up as a potential new owner of the team. Gulitti actually reported that his group was in discussions way back on June 28. Ozanian's article claims he was out. Apparently not. Given he's apparently floated money to the team, I'd be surprise he would just let that go without coming away with something. Harris was reported as a potential buyer just yesterday, as reported in this post by Gulitti at F&I. Harris is massively rich, he owns a professional team so he understands the costs involved, and I presume his group is stepping in now since Barroway didn't get a deal done within a month. However, Barroway's still involved so it should be an interesting approval process over the next few days.
I highly doubt two separate reporters for papers who cover the local team would say a deal could be coming soon if it wasn't. That said, I'm not particularly concerned or even favor who it is. I wasn't even hot and bothered or warm and slightly-miffed when Ozanian's post spread throughout social media. No matter who owns the team, the Devils will still be at the Rock for decades to come. No matter who owns the team, Lou is still going to budget himself under the cap. No matter who owns the team, the Devils will remain the Devils. Whether the sale's pushed up to allay concerns or just to get them done, I don't know or even care. I don't think it matters much. As long as the new owner has the funds and let's Lou be Lou, then I'm fine with it. I have little reason to believe either owner would stray from that. That's why my feelings on this news is at the corner of Sure, OK Drive and Whatever Avenue.
I do have some further thoughts relevant. I can't say with a straight face that it affected what the team did in free agency. I highly doubt a team in truly dire financial straits throws nearly $25 million at a man coming off three concussions and a three goal season. However, I must admit that it's clear that Jeff Vanderbeek cannot be the long-time owner of this franchise. The finances just aren't there to pay off the debts. That may not really news to those who have followed this off and on, but I have to say it. It also seems to me there really isn't anyone who's willing to just be a holder of a small percentage of the team and fund enough money to address all of this. That shouldn't be a surprise; why throw a lot of money at an organization you don't have a majority stake in? Therefore, I would think either Barroway's or Harris' groups will take over and Jeff might - emphasis on might - maintain a small stake if he's still involved. Both Gulitti and Giambusso note that possibility, and it's just that - a possibility. We shall know soon what will happen. Hold the outrage in the meantime.
Clearly, the new owner won't be the NHL. Why did Ozanian write what he wrote? Possibly on the basis of possibilities per his sources. If there's no new owner and if Vanderbeek doesn't make the debt payments and if payroll can't be met on top of it, then it could be a situation that would lead to a league takeover. There are multiple "if"s with one giant "could" in that statement. Given Gulitti's and Giambusso's reports, though, it appears the first one will be dealt with. I can't imagine the league would approve a new owner that wouldn't be able to make payments or other bills, so the rest would be eliminated. So much for the big scoop, I suppose.
It will be of interest to see what happens as this gets sorted. Perhaps the potential of a new buyer was holding up some final moves to be made this summer. Will we finally see Adam Henrique signed? Will this mean Damien Brunner puts pen to paper making him a Devil? Will it mean the Devils get to do something else? As always with this organization, we'll know it when it happens.