The Rising Price of Waiting
It was a story that already had everything.
Now a little bad blood and accusations of deceit are nicely turning the sale of the Pittsburgh Penguins into a Movie of The Week.
A little sex and a body found in a
dumper dumpster (oops) and we'd have crime novel.
By comparison, looking back over the past seven years and the financial twists and turns of the Penguins, Chapter 11 was straightforward.
Mario Lemieux was one sour dude yesterday when he took the microphone to comment on the latest suitor to leave him at or near the altar.
Don't forget, Jim Balsillie wasn't the first to sign a letter of intent to buy the Penguins. A Hartford real estate developer named Sam Fingold was the first back in the summer, so no wonder Lemieux is wondering exactly when a deal is actually a deal these days.
But while Mario Lemieux was doing the spurned lover thing yesterday, Balsillie was making it clear he doesn't believe his bid to buy the Pens is "unequivocably dead," as Lemieux so eloquently termed it yesterday.
"All it takes is three willing parties and a five-minute phone call to get this restarted," said Balsillie in an interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The details are fuzzy, but the essence of the Balsillie exit - temporary or otherwise - is that something fundamental changed between the time Balsillie made representations to the NHL's executive committee in West Palm Beach and late last week.
Some suggest Balsillie told the executive board he was willing to go along with several conditions, but when it came to putting them in writing, he balked.
His camp, of course, is telling a different story, that the NHL tried to impose new conditions on him.
If there's a positive development in this for Lemieux, it's that the price of the Penguins may increase regardless of which casino group lands the coveted state's licence on Wednesday.
If it's the Isle of Capri, the group that has pledged $290 million towards a rink, then a new buyer would know for certain that an arena will be built.
That might well make the price go beyond the $175 million Balsillie and Fingold had signed up to pay.
If it's not the Isle of Capri, well, all bets are off and the Pens effectively become a free agent-in-waiting, open to offers to keep the team in Pittsburgh or offers to move them elsewhere.
And Vernon Wells would tell you the only thing better than actual free agency is pending free agency.