NHL commissioner Gary Bettman says Ottawa Senators not for sale right now

Gary Bettman says the Ottawa Senators are not currently for sale following the death of owner Eugene Melnyk.

Speaking during the first intermission of Game 3 between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs at Amalie Arena, the NHL commissioner said Melnyk’s daughters – who are 19 and 23 – will ultimately have to decide how they want to proceed.

“The franchise is professionally run,” Bettman told reporters. “The club is not on the market. There is no urgency. The club is not unstable.

Melnyk died March 28 at age 62 after battling an illness. He previously said he planned to leave the team to his daughters, Anna and Olivia.

He bought the Senators in 2003 for US$92 million at a time when the franchise was facing bankruptcy and a precarious future in the nation’s capital.

The team is now worth $525 million, according to Forbes.

The Senators made it to the Stanley Cup Final in 2007 when Ottawa lost in five games to the Anaheim Ducks, but Melnyk’s relationship with fans has soured in recent years.

MelnykOut Campaign

The owner said before an outdoor game in Ottawa in 2017 that he could move the team if attendance did not increase and sparked a “.MelnykOut” campaign on city billboards and media social.

The Senators haven’t qualified for the playoffs since going into overtime in Game 7 of the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals, but they have a promising young core of talent left behind by Brady Tkachuk, Tim Stutzle, Josh Norris, Drake Batherson and Thomas Chabot.

The infighting and lawsuit between Melnyk and a developer for the construction of a new downtown arena – the team has played in suburban Kanata since 1996 – just west of Parliament Hill has finally torpedoed this agreement in 2019.

However, the door remains open with the land still available.

“This door opens, closes, opens and closes,” Bettman said. “I hope maybe that will happen at some point.

“At the moment we are only focusing on the family’s wishes and supporting the family at a very difficult time.”

The World Cup still a question mark

Bettman said planning for the 2024 World Cup is continuing, including discussions with the NHL Players’ Association and the International Ice Hockey Federation.

“We’re still working on the structure,” he said. “A lot of talk about how to put this together and then we’ll get into the logistical nuts and bolts, including who’s going to be involved, but we’re not there yet.”

Bettman added that no decision has been made on Russia’s participation in the tournament which is expected to take place in 2024 following the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

Record turnover

Bettman said the league will set a revenue record despite a number of games played in Canada earlier this season without fans or at reduced capacity.

The commissioner said the NHL will be within $150 or $200 million of its projection of $5.3 billion to $5.4 billion.

“We came back from COVID very strong.”

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