It seems all but certain that the Atlanta Thrashers will be sold and moved to Winnipeg before next season, but is there a glimmer of hope for fans in Georgia after all? Via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution comes the news this Saturday that there's another last second local group interested in keeping the group in town, according to Thrashers president Don Waddell.
"Along with all other groups who have expressed an interest in pursuing an ownership opportunity, which has happened as recently as earlier this week, we have said continuously that ‘until an agreement is signed and approved by the board of governors, it's never too late but they will have to move very quickly and decisively. Ownership still is committed to selling at a greatly reduced price to anyone committed to Atlanta.' "
The question, of course, is what that greatly reduced price could be. The deal between Atlanta Spirit Group, the current owners, and True North Sports and Entertainment, the Winnipeg group, is outlined as a reported $170 million. $110 million is the sale price, and $60 million is the NHL's relocation fee.
Obviously, if a group buys the team and keeps them in Atlanta, there will be no relocation fee, so we're talking about a price under $110 million here for the Thrashers. An AP report in January said that the Thrashers have lost $130 million since 2005, and in December, Forbes valued the club at $135 million. Atlanta Spirit purchased them in 2004for $80 million.
No matter which way you cut it, this is a losing proposition for the current ownership. They're just trying to bail before losing any more money at this point, but would they really turn down cash from True North to keep the team in town? They haven't shown much good will towards the Atlanta market in the past, so frankly, it's hard to see them doing that now -- especially when there's money on the line.