PHOENIX (AP)-- Wayne Gretzky's 21-year playing career is over. His first opportunity as an owner is about to begin.
Gretzky, who has no plans to follow Mario Lemieux's lead and lace up the skates again, and partner Steve Ellman were expected to close on the purchase of the Phoenix Coyotes on Wednesday and take control of the team.
The purchase has been in the works for 13 months, and the price could reach $91 million, with adjustments. Gretzky's group originally agreed to buy the team from Richard Burke for $87 million.
If the parties overshoot the closing, they still have another day before a third deadline arrives, but all signs pointed toward getting it done on Wednesday.
The new owners will have four weeks to decide whether to trade Keith Tkachuk or Jeremy Roenick, the scoring leaders whose combined salaries make up one-third of the team's $39 million payroll.
In addition, Gretzky likely will have to choose between All-Star goalie Sean Burke and free agent Nikolai Khabibulin, the team's franchise goalie until he began a 1 1/2-year holdout rather than accept $3 million a year from the Coyotes.
Gretzky was leaning toward Khabibulin, 28, last summer, but the 34-year-old Burke ranks among the league leaders in goals-against average.
Even with Gretzky added as a partner on May 26, there wasn't enough investor interest to make a smooth transition.
The buyers overshot the first deadline and a second one on Dec. 31, and it took the addition of Phoenix trucking magnate Jerry Moyes a few weeks ago to complete the package.
At that time, Ellman said he wanted to close before the extension to Feb. 15 ended. He declined to comment Tuesday.
Burke said he tried not to let the delays bother him.
"I haven't heard anything one way or the other, but I wouldn't construe that as negative at all," Burke said.
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