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Published on April 15, 2024
Utah Jazz Owner Ryan Smith Set to Acquire Arizona Coyotes for $1 Billion, Plans Salt Lake City RelocationSource: Kyvuh, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

In a move that reshapes the landscape of professional hockey in the desert, the Arizona Coyotes are on the cusp of being sold to Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith, sources told The Associated Press. The Coyotes will likely say goodbye to Arizona soil following their final game of the 2023-24 season, with the sale agreement poised to be locked in between season's end and the puck drop of the NHL playoffs.

The deal, valued at a cool $1 billion, involves complex maneuverings, including the transfer of hockey operations to the NHL initially, and eventually into the hands of Smith, who reportedly has plans to relocate the Coyotes to Salt Lake City. Current owner Alex Meruelo isn't bowing out entirely, as he's set to spearhead a $3 billion development venture that includes a new arena in northern Phoenix, as reported by FOX 10 Phoenix. Meruelo also retains the Tucson Roadrunners, the team's AHL affiliate, planning to move the squad to Mullett Arena in Tempe.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Meruelo are expected to make the formal announcement at an upcoming news conference, the deal's ink-drying contingent on the establishment of an arena that meets NHL standards. Until then, Arizona's hockey future hangs in a balance, reflected through mixed emotions from the state's sports community. According to KJZZ, Brad Cesmat, the CEO of Sports360AZ, conveyed a somber but understanding tone about the team's departure, stating, "I hate a fact that we’re losing an NHL franchise. I don’t even like to see us go backward here in the Valley or the state when it comes to losing things. But in this case, it makes sense."

As a condition of the sale, Meruelo is poised to bounce back into the NHL with an expansion team, conditional on the construction of the fresh arena within the five-year bracket. The rollercoaster tale of the Coyotes includes a tug-of-war with various facilities, failed referendums, and Meruelo's staunch refusal to sell the team until he deemed it unfair to players to continue in subpar conditions. "We are focused on a myriad of issues that are unresolved and therefore we are unable to make any official comments at this time," Meruelo said in a statement released on Saturday, as per FOX 10 Phoenix. "However, you have my commitment that I am going to speak on all of these issues and publicly address all of your concerns as promptly as possible."