There are differing opinions on what Ontario businessman Jim Balsillie might do with the Penguins should he be successful in buying them.
Two sources with knowledge of the sale process indicated yesterday that Balsillie could be expected to try to move the team to Ontario, probably Hamilton. Another source believes Balsillie might consider operating the team in Pittsburgh.
Balsillie is chairman and co-CEO of Research in Motion, the successful firm in Waterloo, Ontario, that makes the popular wireless BlackBerrys. He is the front-runner to buy the Penguins, who are owned in part by Hall of Fame player Mario Lemieux.
Approached by The Record of Waterloo Region about yesterday's the Post-Gazette story that identified him as a leading candidate to buy the Penguins, Balsillie called the story "not true." In a follow-up e-mail exchange with The Record, Balsillie softened his stance, writing, "I do not comment on speculation."
Balsillie bid around $175 million to $180 million earlier this summer and was close to entering into a letter of intent with the team but backed off. After Hartford real-estate developer Sam Fingold signed a letter of intent but could not reach a sales agreement, Balsillie re-emerged and could be close to a deal of some sort.
The team's future is tied to its facility. Its lease at aged Mellon Arena expires in June. Without plans for a new building, the team could be relocated.
There are two possibilities for a new venue -- the Penguins' arrangement with Isle of Capri Gaming, which will donate $290 million toward construction of an arena if it gets the city's slots license later this year; and a "Plan B" proposed by local and state officials that calls for money from slots, the state and the Penguins.
Shelly Anderson can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1721.