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New investors? Could be a good deal if you want Vinny to stay

Len Barrie on Wednesday reiterated that the team is looking for new investors, or one investor, to drastically pay down the $130 million up-front debt OK Hockey incurred during the $200 million purchase of the team, the St. Pete Times Forum lease and 5.5 acres next to the arena.

The debt load is about $30 million more than we have spoken of previously. That is because now we are including the approximately $30 million in operating capital OK Hockey had in the loan to help run the team in addition to financing about $100 million of the purchase price. Former owner Palace Sports & Entertainment shouldered about 75 percent of that debt, or about $97 million. Galatioto Sports Partners, a New York sports investment firm, is in for the rest.

Anyway, there will be all kinds of information in tomorrow's story about how OK Hockey is looking for outside investment to pay down as much of that debt as it can. The bottom line, though, is if the debt is reduced, well, maybe there is more room for Vinny Lecavalier. As Barrie said, "If we put ourselves in a non-debt situation, what we're paying now in interest and fees can go into getting players instead of to the banks."

Consider Lecavalier's new 11-year, $85 million contract, pays $10 million next season, about a quarter of an expected payroll of $43 million to $45 million. That equation could change drastically if some of the Lightning's debt is lessened. In other words, perhaps payroll goes up.

Look, it's all up in the air. The world's economic collapse would seem to make it difficult to find any investors, though Barrie said the team has had "several" inquiries, none locally. Asked if there was any interest from the group from Dubai, which Barrie has said is negotiating to buy his Bear Mountain Resort in Victoria, British Columbia, Barrie declined comment.

If no investor is found? "It just puts more pressure to play better or put more money into the team; as simple as that," Barrie said. "We just keep going. ... I don't think the team in Tampa is in jeopardy at all."

As for Lecavalier's future? A decision to build around him or reap what he could bring in trade has to be made before the June draft and before his no-move clause kicks in on July 1. Barrie said he wants Lecavalier in a Tampa Bay uniform.

"He's a generational player," Barrie said. "Why wouldn't you want a player like that? ... We need to put good players around good players. If we make two ro three moves, shore up the defense, maybe add a forward, we're in pretty good shape."  

[Last modified: Sunday, August 16, 2009 4:38pm]


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