Carolina Hurricanes

Proposed Canes sale: Here are questions that need to be answered

The Canes' Elias Lindholm (16) moves the puck against the St. Louis Blues' Vladimir Tarasenko (91) at PNC Arena on April 8, 2017.
The Canes' Elias Lindholm (16) moves the puck against the St. Louis Blues' Vladimir Tarasenko (91) at PNC Arena on April 8, 2017. cseward@newsobserver.com

The proposed sale of the Carolina Hurricanes, for now, has left more questions than answers.

Hurricanes majority owner Peter Karmanos Jr. is considering an offer for the team. Bloomberg News reported that Chuck Greenberg, former CEO of the Texas Rangers, would be a part of a group willing to spend about $500 million to buy the team.

No one has publicly confirmed Greenberg as a potential owner or the amount of the purchase reported by Bloomberg. Neither Karmanos nor Greenberg have been reached for comment, although Hurricanes president Don Waddell did say Thursday the proposed sale would keep the franchise in Raleigh.

Any sale of an NHL team must be approved by the NHL board of governors – a part of a process that could last a few months.

Here are other questions to be answered:

Who’s in the ownership group?

Questions arose Thursday if Greenberg would be the majority owner, holding the largest financial stake in the team. The Bloomberg report said the offer was for about $500 million, and some Hurricanes investors privately have raised questions both about the reported price and Greenberg’s position within the potential ownership group. Would he be the “face” of the group or majority owner?

Is the team worth $500 million?

The Forbes valuation for 2016-17 had the Hurricanes 30th in the NHL at $230 million. But would a sale also include the Florida Everglades and their arena in Ft. Myers, Fla., also owned by Karmanos?

The NHL expansion fee for the Vegas Golden Knights was $500 million. Another group, in Quebec City, also was willing to spend $500 million for an expansion team but was turned down by the NHL.

What would happen to general manager Ron Francis?

Any new ownership group may look to make changes in the front office but Francis is a well-respected general manager whose rebuild of the team in recent years, and the offseason moves he has made this year, have been applauded by many in the NHL.

A Hockey Hall of Fame member, Francis is well-known in the community and helped establish the franchise in North Carolina after its move from Connecticut in 1997. He was the first hockey player to be inducted into the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame in 2013.

Greenberg, who grew up in Pittsburgh, has a past business association with Mario Lemieux, Francis’ former teammate with the Pittsburgh Penguins and a close friend. Greenberg helped Lemieux purchase the Penguins in 1999 and served as a team counsel.

What happens to Don Waddell?

Waddell has served as president of Gale Force Sports & Entertainment, the parent company of the Hurricanes, since July 1, 2014.

Waddell was hired after Jim Rutherford, the Canes’ former president and general manager, left to become general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Detroit native has close ties to Karmanos through his ties with USA Hockey and was former general manager of the Atlanta Thrashers before the Thrashers were relocated to Winnipeg.

Dennis Moore, the Hurricanes’ chief financial officer, is another more recent hire and was president and chief financial officer for the former Plymouth Whalers when Karmanos owned the Ontario Hockey League team.

Would the team be better?

While Karmanos has often chafed about the Hurricanes being called a “budget” team, it has ranked among the lowest in the league in player payroll.

The NHL salary cap is $75 million for 2017-18 and the Canes have $17 million in cap space, according to CapFriendly.com. New ownership could give the green light to management to make short-term moves for the coming season, although pending new contract extensions for defensemen such as Brett Pesce and Noah Hanifin – perhaps similar to the seven-year extension signed by defenseman Jaccob Slavin – would affect cap space moving forward.

What about ticket prices?

Again, another new-ownership decision to be made. The Hurricanes have been last in the NHL in average home attendance the past two seasons, which Waddell has said was a product, in part, of enhancing the value of season tickets and lessening the amount of comp and discounted tickets per game. Not making the Stanley Cup playoffs the past eight years also has hurt.

New ownership would look to increase attendance, which could result in new pricing plans. Greenberg has been called a “fan-first” type of owner in his other sports ventures.

Who would run the building?

While the Centennial Authority is the PNC Arena landlord, Gale Force is charged with the day-to-day operation of the arena and its scheduling. That is spelled out in the arena lease, which runs through 2024.

Any change in ownership likely would result in an operational change. Question: how would that affect the employment of such longtime arena officials including Davin Olsen, who has been the PNC Arena general manager since it opened in 1999?

Chip Alexander: 919-829-8945, @ice_chip

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