Florida Panthers sale: Prospective buyer found, according to report

Brad Barr-US PRESSWIRE

The Florida Panthers are reportedly going to be sold in the coming weeks.

The Florida Panthers ownership group has found a prospective buyer to take over the franchise, according to Josh Kosman of the New York Post.

Kosman writes that the deal is expected to be finalized over the next few weeks according to his sources, though the prospective buyers are from New York but were not identified by Kosman. One source was quoted as saying that the deal is "imminent." Kosman previously reported on the sale of the New Jersey Devils franchise in August and extensively covered the team's financial struggles dating back several months prior to the sale.

The NHL hasn't commented on the situation.

The Panthers received a considerable amount of attention for a poorly-timed and meagerly-attended preseason game earlier this week. Many used the photo of a virtually empty BB&T Arena to display the futility of Florida's professional team, as well as the lack of interest from the fan base.

While the context of the event is important to remember -- the game took place at 2:30 p.m. ET on a Monday afternoon -- the photo is indicative of what the Panthers are to many NHL fans: a club who is struggling because they're failing to engage their fan base.

What plans this new ownership group has for the team and their revitalization in Florida obviously remains to be seen.

Momentum has been growing in recent months toward new arenas being built in several different cities across North America. Even before last season, rumors circulated regarding potential expansion options for the NHL. While the full extent of the Panthers situation is unknown, perception persists that the franchise is struggling.

For many, the existence of smoke typically means there is a fire nearby.

Seattle's Chris Hansen has been diligently attempting to get a multi-sport arena built in the city. The project is participating in two review boards this week, which the NHL is reportedly monitoring. In addition, the Markham Arena project released a new financial framework for the development of the GTA Centre on Tuesday that states the arena will be 100 percent privately funded.

The relation to the Panthers is purely speculative and there is no reason to believe that these projects are linked at this time. In addition, it's extremely important to consider what the fine print of the team's arena lease agreement has to say regarding this situation because such deals likely have provisions to guard against new ownership coming in and moving the team.

However, dots will be connected and questions will develop as a result (meaning, that's what I'm going to do in the next sentence). Hypothetically speaking, the NHL presently has 16 teams in the Eastern Conference and 14 teams in the Western Conference. If Seattle were to have their arena approved and a team in the East were to have a new ownership group in place interested in relocation, the logistics of such a move would benefit the uneven distribution of teams in the league.

When the Phoenix Coyotes were still trying to resolve their arena/ownership situation, Seattle was reported as a destination that could support the team this season. The city has the Key Arena, which would have been a transition home for the franchise while Hansen's arena was under construction. One would imagine that plan would still be a viable option if the right circumstances surfaced.

Again, there's nothing to say that is a possibility in the reported sale of the Panthers. All that has surfaced at this time is that a new group is expected to take over the franchise in the coming weeks.

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