Ever since Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith stated publicly on social media that he wants to bring an NHL franchise to Utah, the Arizona Coyotes have been viewed as the prime suspect to move to the Wasatch Front.

Sure, Smith and Utah could wait for an NHL expansion team, like Seattle did with the Kraken or Las Vegas did with the Golden Knights, but given the tenuous nature of the Coyotes search for a new arena in Tempe, there was considerable speculation that the franchise may relocate.

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Potentially to Salt Lake City.

On Wednesday, though, the idea of the Coyotes relocating to Utah took a serious hit.

The Arizona Coyotes issued a statement Wednesday confirming their attempt to purchase land in Mesa for a new arena.

The statement reads:

“We can confirm that Coyotes Owner, Chairman & Governor Alex Meruelo has executed a Letter of Intent to purchase a parcel of land located in Mesa, Arizona to be the potential site for a sports arena and entertainment district for the Club. The Coyotes remain committed to building the first privately funded sports facility in Arizona history and ensuring the Valley as the Club’s permanent home. In addition to this property in Mesa, the Club will continue to explore other potential sites in the East Valley. 

“We appreciate the tremendous support that we have received from many communities, elected officials, and community leaders who have expressed their desire to see the Coyotes remain in the Valley permanently. We would also like to thank NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly for their steadfast support of the Club’s efforts to find a permanent arena solution, and for their recognition that Arizona is a tremendous hockey market.

In May, Tempe voters rejected a proposition from the Coyotes to build a new arena, entertainment district and residential housing in the city, a decision that left the franchise’s future in Arizona in doubt.

Shortly after that, however, league commissioner Gary Bettman told The Athletic that the NHL preferred the Coyotes stay in Arizona, specifically the Valley of the Sun.

“It’s a terrific market,” Bettman said. “There are a lot of sports fans there. It’s a growing market. It’s one of the larger markets in North America. And I think the club and by implication the fans have been in situations that have been unfortunate, and maybe they’ve been (a) little bit a victim of circumstance.

“And so if we can make something work … we’re at the stage now where the league, ownership, our teams are strong. We’re in a better position to resist moving than we were 20 or 30 years ago. We want to make sure we explore all options at this stage of where we are before we consider having to relocate a club, and I’m hopeful we won’t have to.”

Per Arizona Sports’ John Gambadoro, Meruelo is attempting to purchase 41 acres in Mesa, with the The Phoenix Business Journal reporting that the site is located around Alma School Road and Loop 202.

In a statement to KTAR News 92.3, the city of Mesa expressed optimism about the possibility of the Coyotes relocating from Tempe.

“Hearing that the Coyotes have taken a step forward in their process to find a location in Mesa or the East Valley is exciting for all those eager to see professional hockey remain in Arizona. Mesa is a desirable location, and we will continue to follow along as they consider options.” 

Per Arizona Sports, Meruelo’s intention is to have “multiple sites under contract so there are options.” The goal is for the new arena to be completed and operational in time for the start of the 2026-27 NHL season.

If the Coyotes stay in Arizona, the only remaining path for a NHL team in Utah is through league expansion, the most recent round coming in 2016 with the Golden Knights.