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Gary Bettman soothes worries over Coyotes, Panthers before final

Greg Beacham Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla. – Commissioner Gary Bettman sees few glaring problems with the NHL as the Stanley Cup Final gets underway in a model Sun Belt hockey market, and he is eager to soothe any worries about two of his league’s other warm-weather teams.

Bettman insisted Wednesday night that the Arizona Coyotes and the Florida Panthers are in good shape, downplaying reports of financial troubles for the two struggling franchises.

Bettman gave another cautious nod toward possible expansion to Las Vegas, and he deflected any questions about the possible sale of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Bettman spoke out strongly against reports of problems with the Coyotes’ lease in Glendale, Arizona, calling them “inaccurate” and insisting the franchise isn’t in trouble.

“They have a lease that’s in full force and effect,” Bettman said. “Their obligations are being met currently.

“The club is not going anywhere, so I don’t know where or why these reports are coming from. … It’s unfortunate that there seems to be some degree of distraction in terms of the coverage of the club, but they’ll deal with it, and time will tell over time that, in fact, they’re doing a good job of building that club in Arizona.”

Bettman also shot down rumors of an impending relocation or bankruptcy for the Panthers, insisting owner Vincent Viola has the downtrodden club on a path to prosperity and success.

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