Ownership saga could be a long one
So, as we read in today's paper, Lightning president Ron Campbell said that unless someone comes along and drops $200-million cash on the doorstep of Palace Sports & Entertainment, the ownership situation might not be resolved until at least the summer and there is a chance Palace Sports could still own the team next season. Even if Hollywood producer Oren Koules rebounds quickly and gets financing back in place, the process of closing the financial deal will take months.
Quite a change from that August day when ownership announced the team would be sold to Absolute Hockey Enterprises. Doesn't that seem ages ago?
I thought Campbell was most interesting, though, when he said Tampa Bay's proximity to the playoffs would not be the determining factor as the whether the team is a buyer or seller at the Feb. 26 trade deadline. Rather, it would be, basically, "Based on an offer you can't refuse.''
Campbell didn't go into specifics about who could be traded. It is generally believed transactions this month would most likely involve potential unrestricted free agents such as Vinny Prospal, Johan Holmqvist, Chris Gratton, Jan Hlavac and even Dan Boyle.
He said, "There is no plan today to give up on the season,'' and, "we could be buyers.'' But he did acknowledged this scenario:
"So you sit back and say, 'We could make the playoffs because of the maturity of our team, but maybe we're not ready to go to the Eastern Conference or Stanley Cup finals.' So you know what? Maybe we take a half-step back for this year because it makes us stronger for next year.''
First time we've heard anyone from the organization make a statement like that, and it actually plays nicely into a discussion we've had before about how it actually could be better for the team to miss the playoffs this season and reap some rewards in the draft.
So here is the lay of the land:
Figure Palace Sports owns the team at least into the summer; the front office does not seem averse to trading assets that could result in short-term pain but maybe long-term gain; and we get to wait a few more months at least if Koules or someone else can finally make a deal for the team work.