NHL to Utah? Arizona Coyotes reportedly informed move to Salt Lake is happening

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SALT LAKE CITY — The NHL is likely coming to Utah next season. That's what Arizona Coyotes general manager Bill Armstrong told his team on Friday.

Armstrong informed Coyote players the franchise would be moving following the season, according to multiple reports. Arizona Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo has agreed to sell the team to the NHL, which, in turn, will sell the team to Utah Jazz owners Ryan and Ashley Smith.

However, sources told KSL.com that a deal with Smith Entertainment Group is not done and there remains a long way to go on the matter. There is confusion, sources said, about why the Coyotes players were informed that a move was imminent at this time.

This much is clear: A deal is being worked on that would bring the Coyotes to Salt Lake City. There are just some hurdles that still have to be cleared — like mostly finishing up a complicated transaction.

Before anything becomes official, the league's board of governors would have to vote on the relocation — something that has yet to happen, sources said.

ESPN and Sportsnet both reported an official announcement is expected next week. The Coyotes' season finale is on Wednesday.

If the deal is completed, as is expected, the team will play at the Delta Center while a new arena is built. Gov. Spencer Cox signed SB272 last month, setting up a "Capital City Revitalization Zone," which includes funding for a new arena.

The Delta Center — which was built for basketball — would be expected to go through hockey-specific renovations to help fix sight lines and lighting issues to make it a suitable home for an NHL team until a new arena is completed.

During intermission interviews during Friday's game, the Coyote players seemed to confirm Armstrong had let them know they were moving to Utah.

"It makes everyone feel a little more comfortable, you got a sense of clarity," forward Logan Cooley said of the meeting.

Added forward Josh Doan: "It cleared some things up obviously ... and I think everyone in that room's thankful that he came in and did that."

And clarity is something that has been lacking for the Coyotes.

Arizona head coach Andre Tourigny thought he was done dealing with new stuff after 30 years of coaching hockey.

"My wife texted me yesterday, she said, 'You've coached 30 years. I thought we've seen everything?'"

They were wrong. This week they experienced something new.

On Wednesday, it was reported that the NHL had put together an alternative schedule for next season with the Coyotes franchise playing in Salt Lake City. That news came just two days after Smith publicly asked for suggestions about a potential team name.

As rumors swirled, the Coyote coaches and players were left in the dark. They were forced to go out and play on Wednesday night — turning in a thrilling performance in a 4-3 overtime victory over the Vancouver Canucks — with the weight of the precariousness situation fully on them.

"Throughout this whole time, there hasn't been a ton of discussion on what's going on I guess," forward Clayton Keller told reporters Friday morning. "We're just kind of taking it day by day. We've heard different things here and there, and none of them are really true, so we just kind of learn from that and take it day by day."

This one, though, seems like it will be true.

Smith hasn't been shy about his desire to bring an NHL team to Utah. Ever since he met with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman for dinner after last year's NBA Board of Governors meetings, speculation ramped up in Utah — speculation Smith has often fueled himself via tweets and making appearances on hockey podcasts.

In January, the speculation turned to real action. Smith Entertainment Group formally announced a push for a team, requesting the league to begin an expansion process. While expansion was the preferred route, the group said it was ready to host an NHL team as soon as 2024-25 — if needed.

The implication was obvious. The Coyotes had been struggling to get an arena solution, and a push for a Tempe-area arena had been struck down by voters last year.

Meruelo seemed to have one last shot, though. Last week, the Coyotes owner announced his intentions to win a state-run auction on June 27 for a parcel of land with a plan to build a stadium and entertainment district there. The league, though, appears to have run out of patience for the Coyotes' years-long quest to find a permanent home for the team.

That point was furthered with how Utah was positioning itself for a franchise.

The Utah legislature quickly voted for bills for arena efforts to help attract a new team; and SEG was, reportedly, willing to part with money never before seen for an NHL franchise.

The Seattle Kraken, the last team brought into the league, was purchased for $650 million. According to reports, the Coyotes will cost SEG upwards of $1.2 billion to $1.3 billion for the franchise and relocation fees once things are complete.

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