- Mark Stepneski, ESPNDallas.com
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The sale of the Dallas Stars has picked up some momentum and Vancouver businessman Tom Gaglardi is the front-runner to buy the team, according to a source familiar with the sale.
The 43-year-old Gaglardi is the president of Northland Properties, a hotel and restaurant empire started by his father more than 40 years ago.
The two sides have entered into an agreement to pursue the negotiation of a sale, another source told ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun. However, there is nothing binding on the sale.
There is also the strong possibility that the Stars will have to be taken through an organized bankruptcy to free the new owner from the debt incurred by Hicks Sports Group, which defaulted on $525 million in loans in 2009.
While there is hope of a resolution of the sale by as early as late May, there is no guarantee of that. There could be bumps in the road along the way and the timeline to get a deal done could stretch out longer.
Lenders are currently funding the Stars, who last fall were ranked as the 10th most valuable franchise in the league at $227 million by Forbes.
Gaglardi, who owns the Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League along with former Dallas Star Darryl Sydor and current NHL players Shane Doan, Mark Recchi and Jarome Iginla, has been in the hunt for an NHL team before. He tried to buy the Vancouver Canucks in 2004 and was rumored to be interested in the Atlanta Thrashers in 2009.
His name has been linked to the Stars for about a year and he has emerged as the front-runner over a pair of local groups. One is headed up by Dallas oilman Douglas Miller, who owns the Allen Americans of the Central Hockey League. The other group is headed up Irving oil and gas businessman William "Billy" Quinn.
Getting the ownership situation resolved would be a major hurdle for the Stars, who have missed the playoffs for three straight seasons. They have been operating under a tight budget in recent seasons and are trying to keep top scorer Brad Richards, who has said he is hesitant to re-sign with the club until there is stable ownership in place.
Mark Stepneski covers the Stars for ESPNDallas.com.