Tin foil hats ahoy!
With so many Canadians clamouring for another NHL team Gary Bettman stated on January 29th 2011 that the NHL is not going to expand. That leaves no room for manoeuvre - if an outside agency wants to move into NHL management (hi Jim Balsillie) , they have to buy out an existing one and relocate them to their market of choice.
Is there something sinister going on in Kroenke's mind? Are we going to lose the Avalanche to Quebec?
Consider the "evidence:"
Quebecois want the Nordiques back. They want an NHL team in Quebec. They have carried out mass attendances of over 1100 at the Islanders game recently, a trip of about 550 miles. This was to demonstrate their strength of feeling.
Quebec City Mayor Régis Labeaume has greenlit the building of a massive sports arena to replace Quebec's aging Colisée Pepsi. Even though there is no NHL team there, this $400 million construction is due to be completed in 2015. One way to ease fears of investors would be to have an NHL team in place, ready to take occupancy at the new arena.
Kroenke does not have ownership of the Avs anymore. That falls to his son, Josh, and that acts as a buffer to any angry fans who might boycott his other products (Nuggets etc). "Hey, it wasn't me, I am not the owner anymore, I believe in the Nuggets blah blah blah"
Last year, Stewie got offered a 2 year deal and the thinking behind it was that he should be locked up in a long term deal. The reason that he wasn't was, perhaps, the Avs management had an eye on the new CBA due in 2012.
Perhaps though, it is no accident that no one on the team (bar Stastny) have got long term deals. I do not know if there is provision in the CBA to protect players in the event of relocation. If there was, it would make sense that contracts be kept short, in order to minimise payments for relocation etc.
Even if there is no such provision, it certainly makes the Avalanche a more attractive proposition to investors, as they can change the roster as they see fit, with no large contracts to get in the way. Plus, it allows a few signings to please the home crowd.
Attendance - according to ESPN - average attendance for the Avs through 33 games in the 2010/11 season was 14,852, an average of 82.5% capacity for 27th in the league. Now, you and I know for a fact that those figures are massaged mightily. I have seen games where the lower bowl behind the goals are almost completely empty. Also, those figures are certain to have dropped off a cliff since the Avs poor play this season. I would imagine that realistically, those figures stand at 65 - 70%
Finally, why on earth is Kroenke playing it so cheap? His Avalanche is suffering the worst season in history. He has cap space available and can make moves - or keep the best players he has. He has not shown one ounce of interest in the Avs and I believe that since he signed it over to Josh, he is more than happy to not deal with them.
Kroenke is a billionaire who has made a lot of money. Would he turn down a shitload of money from Jim Balsillie or someone else to sell the Avs? Quebec would probably sell out the arena for a year or two, which would make a fine penny for the right investor. That investor could probably afford to pay a lot of money to Kroenke, because they know that they can recoup the purchase price.