For those in that camp that believes the NHL would be a better organization without Eugene Melnyk holding stake, well, here’s some potentially positive news out of Ottawa.
David Pagnotta of the Fourth Period reported that Melynk has “engaged in negotiations to sell the franchise” and has received at least one offer that’s being “considered.” Pagnotta’s report was published just a few hours after the Senators announced a $135-million financing program to combat existing debt.
While unrelated afflictions have certainly contributed, the organizational free fall the Senators have been in since Chris Kunitz ended their surprise run to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final last season has been precipitated, first and foremost, by financial pressures that have long plagued the franchise.
As the league’s financial situation has improved since the lockout, it seems to have worsened in Ottawa, evidenced by internal layoffs, departures and ownership’s recent reluctance to spend to the salary cap. This is without mentioning the franchise’s shameless stunt to improve attendance numbers by throwing tarps over upper-bowl seats and Melnyk souring the Senators’ outdoor spectacle by wielding the threat of relocation at fans in his media availability outside Parliament Hill.
Melnyk said in the scrum that he would not “blow a lifetime of working hard” just to support an NHL team. Perhaps now realizing that deploying a threadbare hockey operations department won’t have the sorcery required to interrupt the plummeting trajectory in terms of on-ice performance, Melnyk could stay true to his word and cut bait.
Deep enough pockets to see through an arena move to the downtown core is required to resuscitate the Senators, and perhaps a potential buyer will have the means to accomplish that. But before we call Melnyk’s apparent interest to sell a win for fans (and perhaps the requisite to save the relationship between the franchise and its star player, Erik Karlsson), it should be noted that Pagnotta’s report offers no information on the potential buyer, nor its plans.
But with money and an NHL arena in Quebec City, which was told to wait patiently when Vegas received its expansion team, Melnyk’s apparent interest in moving on offers no promise that the Senators won’t follow.
(For what it’s worth, the NHL has stated that the Senators are not actively being shopped, as per Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun).