Arizona Coyotes Mullett Arena

MANALAPAN, Fla. -- The NHL is watching closely as Arizona Coyotes owner Alex Meruelo pursues land for a new arena in Phoenix via an auction in June.

After the NHL general managers meeting concluded Wednesday, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was asked if time is of the essence, because the League must make a schedule for next season soon.

“We’re cognizant of that, and we’re also focused on the fact that Alex Meruelo is working on acquiring what he believes is the best location for the new arena and his overall project,” Bettman said.

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly was asked if the NHL would have time to pivot -- in other words, relocate the Coyotes -- in time for the start of next season if they don’t win the auction.

“Probably not,” Daly said. “I don’t believe so.”

Asked if that means the NHL would have to make a call on the Coyotes for next season before the auction, Daly said: “At this point, there’s no call to make yet on Arizona. We’re satisfied with kind of where we are. Certainly, it’s Alex’s intention to go forward with the auction.”

“If they win the auction, that’s the first step in the process,” Daly said. “They’ve got their land. They have the ability to build on it. I think the actual auction itself will provide that certainty, I think.”

Daly said the League doesn’t need to release a schedule for next season before the NHL Draft in late June.

“We have flexibility as to when we release a schedule,” Daly said. “We’ll kind of see how this plays out, and we’ll release a schedule when we’re ready to release a schedule. … I’m focused on currently they’re going to play hockey games in Arizona next year.”

The Coyotes played at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona, from 2003 until the city ended its lease with the team after the 2021-22 season. They are playing temporarily at Mullett Arena, a 4,600 -seat facility at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona.

Since voters did not approve the proposed Tempe Sports and Entertainment district May 16, they have been looking for a solution that would not require a public referendum.

Asked if the NHL is satisfied with the Coyotes’ process, Bettman said: “Well, we would have preferred to be in a new arena by now, but there are certain things that couldn’t be controlled. We would have preferred that the referendum in Tempe went the other way, but it didn’t. And so, we deal with what we can deal with.

“Having said that, we believe Arizona, particularly the greater Phoenix area, is a good NHL market. It’s a place we want to be.”

Daly said the NHL has not begun an expansion process despite groups from Salt Lake City and Atlanta asking for it to do so publicly.

“There are so many other things that are more pressing right now than expansion,” Daly said. “Whether it’s reported on again at the June [NHL Board of Governors] meeting just in terms of the nature of the interest we’ve received, maybe it will be. Will that lead to an expansion process? I’m not sure.”