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Dallas Stars sale takes next step in bankruptcy court

Sep 19, 2011, 3:35 PM EST

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While the team itself wraps up work at Prince Edward Island, the Dallas Stars’ most important battles will take place in the courtroom rather than along the boards.

Today marked another key step in that process, as the bankruptcy court proceedings began with a rather important thing determined: the Stars will, in fact, be able to function as normal even as they go through the bankruptcy process. It will be business as usual, with the Dallas Morning News confirming that 12 motions were passed that permit the team to keep the lights on (both literally and figuratively).

That’s a crucial part of the process after the team officially filed for bankruptcy last week as part of a plan to sell the franchise, which is currently being controlled by creditors who took over once Tom Hicks’ financial issues eliminated his ability to run the team.

The next step is an even bigger one: a hearing involving the bidding process for the team will take place on Thursday. That will give bidders a 30-day deadline to make their attempts to own the Stars, which means that they must submit their bids by Oct. 22. Katie Hairopoulos explains that the the proposed auction date would then be Nov. 21, which would make the goal of changing ownership before 2012 seem fairly reasonable. (Keep in mind that the new owner(s) would need to be approved by the NHL Board of Governors, along with other steps that might delay or even halt the process.)

While there are certainly some elements that are still in the air, it’s hard to deny the feeling of optimism permeating the potential deal. Frontrunner Tom Gaglardi already announced the legal team that will represent him in the bidding, while Business Week reveals that former Texas Rangers co-owner Chuck Greenberg may indeed get involved in the process (which has been rumored for some time). Check out this post for some speculation regarding other possible owners, including Doug Miller, who owns the CHL’s Allen Americans.

Again, though, Gaglardi seems like the top contender. Dave Shoalts of the Globe & Mail elaborates on why he might not face very serious opposition.

The offer will also serve as a stalking-horse bid for the bankruptcy court, which means other parties can file a higher bid with the court. However, Stars insiders do not expect any competing bids and Gaglardi may take control of the team in the next two months if he gets the expected approval from the NHL’s board of governors.

Once Gaglardi is in charge, Stars fans can expect a strong marketing push to win them back, as the team’s ticket sales eroded badly in Hicks’ final years. There may also be a new president on the way, since current president Tony Tavares, a veteran NHL executive, was appointed by the banks to look after the team during the bankruptcy and sale.

While GM Joe Nieuwendyk claims that the team wasn’t affected by ownership issues, it clearly made it that much easier for Brad Richards to decide to leave town. (I’d actually argue that the Stars might be better off in the long run because of Richards’ age and the fact that they missed the playoffs for three straight seasons with him on their roster, but that’s a debate for another day.)

Nieuwendyk can say all the right things about the team’s health without an owner, but with the specter of budding star Jamie Benn‘s pending restricted free agency and the team’s struggles at the box office, a deep-pocketed new owner would be a huge boost for the Stars. While a lot can change in the next week and months, it’s starting to look like the Stars will get their new owner and a steadied direction in the near future.

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