Canes closer to sale goal

Staff writerFebruary 16, 2011 

Carolina Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos Jr. has said for months he was seeking local investors to buy into the NHL team.

That process, Karmanos said Tuesday, is nearly complete.

Karmanos said an agreement to bring in as many as 20 to 30 investors could be finalized in the next three months. He said the investors are locally based - he declined to name any of those in the group - and would put up from $1 million to $3 million apiece.

"I've always felt it was important for the team to have local investors," Karmanos said in an interview. "There are a lot of people in Raleigh and the Triangle who believe the team is very important to the community. It will be great for the team, great for the community and further establish hockey in the state of North Carolina."

Karmanos said the success of the recent NHL All-Star Weekend and the Hurricanes hosting the 2011 NHL All-Star Game "certainly highlighted the fact Raleigh is a hockey market and the Triangle is a hockey market."

"From the league down to the casual fan, everyone realizes the Hurricanes are a big part of the community," he said.

Karmanos has been seeking investors to buy into the team since the September 2008 death of team co-owner Thomas Thewes, a former co-founder and business partner in Detroit-based Compuware. Karmanos last year announced his intent to sell Thewes' 49 percent of the team to help the Thewes family settle the estate, and he hired the New York investment firm Allen & Co. to seek out investors.

Karmanos said a $240 million valuation for the team was used in computing the ownership shares. He said the group of investors would own about 30 percent of the team and that he would retain the remaining 70 percent.

In an interview during the All-Star Weekend, Karmanos said an announcement on investors could come in the next three to six months, but the pace apparently accelerated after the Jan. 30 All-Star Game.

Karmanos slashed the team payroll this season, saying it would make the franchise more attractive to potential investors.

The Canes, who face the New Jersey Devils tonight, are eighth in the NHL's Eastern Conference and in playoff position.

The NHL trade deadline is Feb. 28, and Karmanos said he has authorized general manager Jim Rutherford to make any moves, if necessary, to enhance the team's playoff chances. That could add to the payroll.

"Jim can do whatever he feels he needs to do to improve the team," Karmanos said. "We've worked together for 25 years, and he knows how I feel.

"Right now, the question would be who would you replace in our lineup? Another is, who's available? We're trying to figure all that out."

In 2006, the Canes picked up veteran forwards Doug Weight and Mark Recchi and won the Stanley Cup. They traded for forwards Jussi Jokinen and Erik Cole in 2009 and advanced to the Eastern Conference finals.

Last season, the Canes spent almost to the NHL salary cap but had a stumbling start and did not reach the playoffs. The Hurricanes shed a number of players, retooled and are 27-22-8 with 25 games left in the regular season.

"We knew we had a lot of younger players this season, and we knew we could have a lower payroll and be a competitive team," Karmanos said. "At times, it seems like we have overachieved. At other times, quite frankly, I don't think we have played as well as we can. But I would not say we have exceeded expectations."

Jokinen, the team's fourth-leading scorer with 38 points, missed the past six games after a recurrence of a groin injury. He returned to practice Tuesday and will play tonight against the Devils as the Canes end a five-game road swing.

Canes coach Paul Maurice is aware team chemistry can be a fragile thing. While management will make the decisions on trades, Maurice said any additions shouldn't be a problem.

"We had a lot of new faces, it seemed, early on and anybody who has come in has been accepted," he said. "This is a good group of guys, so whatever happens here in the next couple of weeks I'm not particularly concerned about."

Note: The Hurricanes recalled defenseman Brett Carson from the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League on Tuesday.

Carson, 25, has played in eight games for the Canes this season, earning a plus-4 rating and averaging 10:33 of ice time per game.

chip.alexander@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8945

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