Will the Preds get Fritch's riches?

Once Cigna's buy of HealthSpring goes final, HealthSpring founder, Chairman and CEO Herb Fritch should enjoy a cash event somewhere on the north side of $150 million, after factoring in change-of-control payments, capital gains and so forth.

Happy New Year, Mr. Fritch!

In addition to having the smart idea of starting and building a company specializing in Medicare Advantage insurance, Fritch is also a key member of the Nashville Predators' ownership group, having bought 36.7 percent of the team in 2007. When David Freeman put together the gaggle of local owners, Fritch was the first partner he announced and was visible from early on during the ownership transition — even wearing a jersey bearing the name "HealthSpring" and the number 1 during the ticket-selling rally.

The question is if his nine-figure windfall makes any difference to the hockey team.

Does Fritch see his ownership stake as a point of civic duty? Did he get involved primarily to keep the team from bolting for colder climes? Or is he interested in hockey as a thing in itself? While he was an early visible face of the new owners four years ago, he's been fairly invisible as a public figure since, ceding those responsibilities to Freeman and now Tom Cigarran. (That's understandable given that HealthSpring has more than doubled in size since 2007.) On the other hand, he is one of the team's alternate governors, the ownership's representative at league meetings. And he did wear that jersey.

Any further investment by Fritch also would dilute the sharesheld by the rest of the group. Of course, a siginficant investment has the potential to make Fritch the majority owner, something the team has been without since Craig Leopold sold to the local investors.

Even without his forthcoming influx, Fritch has been cashing in. He's been selling HealthSpring stock through a trading plan since at least 2008 and has this year sold batches every two weeks or so. Since his last trade of 2010, he has reduced his stake by a net 322,500 shares. Conservatively using $35 as the average sale price — the stock's been well above it for much of the year but below it for some of the time — that adds up to $11.3 million in pre-tax proceeds. Check out his sales history here.

At the team's mid-summer Skate of the Union event, Cigarran said he expected to raise between $20 million and $25 million before the end of 2011 and team COO Sean Henry said the expectation was that the cash would come from local investors — either from owners currently on board or via new money. Cigarran also said the NHL was expected to approve a new ownership stake in the team from Canadian billionaire W. Brett Wilson by September. Now October, neither of those events have come to fruition.

Cigarran was quiet this summer as to how those new millions would be spent, be it on player payroll or building improvement or the more mundane parts of pro sports ownership, like paying off debt or just making the organization more stable in a general sense.