Tampa Bay Lightning officials declined to comment Friday on an online report that the National Hockey League has been in touch with Boston financial investor Jeffrey Vinik about purchasing the team.
The report, published by The Hockey News citing unnamed sources, suggested the price of the sale would come in at $170 million and speculated a deal would come at the expense of captain Vinny Lecavalier, who would be asked to waive his no-trade clause to allow for a trim of payroll.
Lecavalier, in the first year of an 11-year extension that pays him $10 million a season for the next six seasons, was unavailable for comment after the team's Friday morning skate.
Lightning co-owner Oren Koules declined to comment through a team spokesman.
Tampa Bay, in contention for an Eastern Conference playoff spot, seeks its fourth straight victory tonight at home against Anaheim.
Vinik, 50, has been a minority owner of the Boston Red Sox since 2002.
The Hockey News report said the NHL is negotiating the sale of the Lightning and the 5.5-acre parcel of land adjacent to the St. Pete Times Forum from the OK Hockey Group to Vinik, according to multiple sources. The report said there was conflicting information about whether a sale was imminent.
According to multiple online reports citing unnamed sources, OK Hockey has defaulted on its loan payments to Palace Sports & Entertainment, the team's previous owner. And, according to a report last week by the Sports Business Journal, the NHL advanced the team revenue-sharing money for the 2009-10 season to cover January payroll expenses.
Koules recently denied the league advanced the team money during an interview with ESPN reporter Pierre LeBrun.
The Sports Business Journal, citing unnamed sources, said the team also received a $2 million advance from cable television station Sun Sports to make the final payroll of the 2008-09 season.
For months, sparring Tampa Bay co-owners Len Barrie and Koules have been working to bring in additional investors in order to part ways. The safety net in the process has been the backing of Palace Sports, which helped finance the sale to OK Hockey in July 2008 by loaning the new owners nearly $100 million to complete the $200 million transaction.
The Detroit News reported last week that Karen Davidson, widow of Palace Sports founder Bill Davidson, is looking into selling the Detroit Pistons and possibly Palace Sports. That means Palace Sports likely would want to clear the Lightning off its books completely before a sale.
"All I can say is we expect a positive resolution in the relatively near future," NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said last week.
The league already has dealt with one muddled ownership situation this season involving the Phoenix Coyotes, which was placed in bankruptcy court by owner Jerry Moyes in May. The NHL eventually gained legal ownership of the franchise in early October after a court-run bidding process and is attempting to sell the franchise.