There's an interesting column in this morning's Tennessean by David Climer, who has typically been pessimistic about hockey's chances in Nashville. According to Climer, "a proposed local ownership group is getting very close to putting a deal together to purchase the Predators from Craig Leipold. An announcement could be forthcoming by early next week." If indeed true, it marks considerable progress for a group that banded together only after current owner Craig Leipold announced his intent to sell the team to Jim Balsillie just two months ago.
The two most visible members of this local group are David Freeman and Herb Fritch. Freeman is a venture capitalist after having sold Commodore Medical Services, and Fritch is the CEO of HealthSpring, a health insurance company operating in five states.
Another point in the Climer piece says that the local group may well get assistance from an out-of-state party, with an implication that Boots Del Biaggio, or at least his investment firm Sand Hill Capital, could add cash or financing to the offer. If true, that's a scenario anticipated in a column over at the Nashville Post a couple weeks ago by Richard Lawson and Ken Whitehouse.
If things do actually come together over the next several weeks, the NHL could be looking at a real juggernaut developing in Music City. GM David Poile has trimmed the payroll, but savvy acquisitions and a strong core of young players have already ensured a competitive lineup for next season. With money left to spend in order to reach the salary cap minimum, if fresh ownership arrives and gives him clearance to move even modestly above that floor (say by $4-6 million) Poile might have the opportunity to land a true difference-maker either in free agency or by trade. Sometimes early in a season when a big-spending team flops out of the gate they become interested in dumping salary, and that might provide the opportunity for Poile to jump on.