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Golden Knights to face a rebranded team next year. Hint: It’s nearby

The Arizona Coyotes are headed out the door for Utah after insisting for years they would stay.

Team owner Alex Meruelo is expected to sell the team for $1.2 billion to Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith, who intends to move the franchise to Salt Lake City. The deal could come as soon as Thursday, a day after the Coyotes’ final home game in Arizona.

A look at how the team got here:

How did this happen?

The Coyotes, no matter the ownership group, have insisted the franchise is here to stay, even building a marketing campaign around the phrase.

Meruelo’s group has a potential line on a tract of land to build an arena in north Phoenix but the auction for it got pushed back until June. The NHL and its players’ union have been hesitant to have the team keep playing at 5,000-seat Mullett Arena on Arizona State University’s campus.

With no guarantees the land deal will go through, Meruelo didn’t want the players to continue playing in an arena that’s not up to NHL standards, so he opted to sell the franchise to Smith.

The Coyotes had played in Glendale, Arizona, before the city backed out of a multimillion-dollar long-term lease in 2015. The team had been playing on a yearly lease until the city announced before the 2022-23 season that it would not be renewed.

The Coyotes played at Mullett Arena the past two seasons.

What’s next?

When the deal is completed, Smith will take over the Coyotes’ hockey operations, including players, coaches and staff, and the team will play in Utah starting next season.

Meruelo plans to keep his business operations intact to work toward securing and developing the north Phoenix land. He also plans to move the Tucson Roadrunners, the team’s American Hockey League affiliate, to Mullett Arena to keep the team’s youth hockey efforts moving forward.

Will Arizona get an expansion team?

The deal to sell the team to Smith will include a provision for Arizona to get an expansion team if the new arena is built within five years.

Should that happen, Meruelo will pay back the $1 billion and go ahead with building the expansion team. NHL owners will get $200 million as a relocation fee for the franchise.

Why Utah?

Smith has worked hard to bring a team to Salt Lake City, requesting that the NHL initiate the expansion process earlier this year.

The NHL has played several exhibition games in Utah, while officials from Salt Lake City and the city’s 2034 Olympic bid supported Smith’s attempt to bring the NHL to the state.

Why not Mullett?

Mullett Arena has a great atmosphere and excellent sight lines for fans. It’s just too small and is not up to NHL standards, including a lack of true locker rooms.

Where will the Utah team play?

The relocated team will start its Utah tenure at the Delta Center, home of the Jazz, until a new arena can be built. The Delta Center will need hockey-specific alterations before the team can play there.

Will the name change?

Meruelo will maintain the Coyotes name, logo and trademarks, so the relocated team will have to play under a new name. The team already changed names once, becoming the Phoenix Coyotes after having been the Jets in Winnipeg prior to the franchise’s move to the United States.

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