HOUSTON (AP) _ Houston businessman Chuck Watson, trying to convince the National Hockey League to grant him an option for a future franchise, is offering a $35 million loan to an Edmonton group to help keep the financially struggling Edmonton Oilers in the Canadian city, Houston television station KRIV reported Wednesday night.

``Our motivation is to assist the NHL in keeping the NHL in Edmonton,'' Watson, who owns the International Hockey League Houston Aeros, told KRIV. ``In turn, the NHL would look favorably on a franchise for me in Houston.''

Watson denied the move is an effort to purchase the team and relocate it in Houston, where he has been vying with Leslie Alexander, owner of the NBA Houston Rockets, to get a hockey team for the city.

``We would hope to get an option from the NHL for a franchise in the future,'' he said. ``And the future, if it is up to us, would not be until after we have a resolution in Houston on a new arena.''

Watson's Arena Operating Co. manages Compaq Center, until recently known as the Summit, where the Aeros and Rockets both play. Alexander, who is locked into a lease at Compaq Center until 2003, has been pushing city officials to get moving on plans for a new stadium with more revenue-producing luxury boxes and a larger seating capacity.

Alexander and Watson, however, have been at odds for more than a year over how to manage a new arena and split the money it produces. That uncertainty played a role in the NHL deciding last year not to award Houston an expansion franchise.

Watson's $35 million offer to the local Edmonton group is half the $70 million selling price.

``We offered to assist them in financing the deal,'' Watson said. ``According to the bank's terms, the potential local owners would put up 50 percent and go into the deal with 50 percent debt. We offered, if we can be helpful, to loan them the $35 million necessary to complete the deal.''