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Saskatoon Blades set to start new era under Edmonton car dealer

Blades owner Jack Brodsky is close to selling his WHL team (image credit StarPhoenix)As soon as the Western Hockey League’s board of governors approve the sale on Sept. 4, the Saskatoon Blades will start a new era under Edmonton car dealer Mike Priestner.

The deal between Priestner and long-time majority owner Jack Brodsky has been in the works dating back to May of this year. The StarPhoenix’s Daniel Nugent-Bowman reported the two parties agreed on a final sale price of around $9 million after a long negotiation process.

A source close to the negotiations said the transaction is worth around $9 million.

Priestner’s bid was the highest of at least two serious offers submitted to buy the Blades. The other was made by a six-man group consisting of former Blades Rhett Warrener, Kelly Chase and Dave Chartier, plus Calgary-based businessman Andy McCreath, Hamm Construction owner Bob Hamm and Dr. Peter Spafford.

This is Priestner’s second attempt at buying a WHL club. He missed out on the Kamloops Blazers sweepstakes in 2007 to a group made up of Tom Gaglardi, Shane Doan, Jarome Iginla, Mark Recchi and Darryl Sydor

Brodsky’s decision to finalize a deal before the start of the regular-season is in the best interest of the players. If the negotiation process carried on throughout the winter months, it would have been a huge distraction in the dressing room.

On one hand, Saskatoon lost one of the most honest and beloved major junior ownership groups in the Brodsky family. On the other hand, however, getting a new ownership group is a time of excitement for Blades fans. They never got the on-ice results they were hoping for under Jack Brodsky partially because he never made big changes in the hockey operations when it would have been justified. Under Priestner, there is hope the club’s next on-ice chapter will be brighter than their last.

The consensus on why Brodsky decided to put the Blades up for sale is because the 61 year old is simply ready to retire. However, Regina radio personality Rod Pedersen reported that a source told him the Blades’ financial loss at the 2013 MasterCard Memorial Cup also played a role.

As for what is next for the Blades’ hockey operations, Pedersen reported that general manager Lorne Molleken and recently named head coach Dave Struch’s jobs are safe for this this season. But he speculated that there will be change the following season with close friend of Priestner, Dean Clark, as the favourite to be the Blades’ next bench boss and possibly their GM as well. It would make perfect sense for Clark to join Priestner in Saskatoon. Clark not only has 13 years of coaching experience in the WHL, including roughly four years with the Prince George Cougars before getting fired last January, but he also worked for Priestner as a car salesman in 2008 at Edmonton-based Kentwood Ford when he was in between coaching jobs.

Priestner must have patience in his journey to bring Saskatoon its first Ed Chynoweth Cup. The Blades will be in major rebuild mode this season, having at least 10 new faces on their roster. And they don’t hold a first-round bantam pick for the next two years because Molleken traded them while loading up for the Memorial Cup.

Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen.

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