Hurricanes: Owner Karmanos considers offer to sell team

RALEIGH, N.C. — Carolina Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos Jr. is considering selling the NHL team.

Hurricanes spokesman Mike Sundheim said in a statement that Karmanos is deciding whether to accept an offer for the franchise or remain the owner, but he declined to say who made the offer.

The offer could have come from former Texas Rangers CEO Chuck Greenberg. Bloomberg News and WRAL-TV, the NBC affiliate in Raleigh, reported that Greenberg is close to purchasing the team and will not move the Hurricanes. Bloomberg reported the sale price at roughly $500 million.

Karmanos bought the Hartford Whalers franchise in 1994 and moved it to North Carolina three years later. He had been publicly seeking a local buyer for at least three years.

Greenberg is the Rangers’ former managing partner who spent seven months as their CEO before leaving in 2011. He also owns several minor-league baseball teams, including one in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Greenberg did not return a phone call and a text message seeking comment. Seven of the team’s 12 publicly identified minority investors contacted by The Associated Press either declined comment or did not respond to phone calls and emails seeking comment.

Reports about possible relocation have plagued the Hurricanes even as team officials and even Commissioner Gary Bettman have persistently and repeatedly denied them. Bettman said at the All-Star game in January that “the club is not moving” and NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly echoed that sentiment by saying the league is committed to Raleigh in the same manner it has stuck with Phoenix during years of struggles for the Coyotes.

Karmanos in 2015 said “we’d have to be idiots to move from here,” largely because of the team’s PNC Arena lease, which extends through 2024 and is considered one of the most team-friendly in the league.

In its most recent franchise valuations, Forbes magazine ranked the Hurricanes last in the NHL at $230 million. Bill Foley paid a $500 million expansion fee to the league to bring the Golden Knights to Las Vegas.

The team also ranked last in the league in attendance for the second year in a row in 2016-17, drawing an average of just 11,776 fans to their 18,680-seat home arena and filling it to just 63 per cent capacity — their lowest per-game average since they moved into the building for the 1999-2000 season. They averaged just 12,204 at home the year before.

The best way to improve those numbers, of course, is with a winning team — and it’s been a while since Carolina had one.

The 2006 Stanley Cup champions have made the post-season only once (2009) since the club captured its lone title. They have the longest playoff drought in the NHL at eight years.

Carolina has had a busy off-season, picking up goalie Scott Darling in a trade with Chicago, bringing back free-agent forward Justin Williams with a two-year deal worth $9 million and most recently signing young defenceman Jaccob Slavin to a seven-year contract extension that will keep him with the team through the 2024-25 season.

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