Senators Sports & Entertainment say process is underway to sell NHL team

OTTAWA — The Ottawa Senators are on the market.

The board of directors of Senators Sports & Entertainment said Friday that a process has been initiated for the sale of the NHL club.

Galatioto Sports Partners, a firm specializing in the sports finance and advisory business, has been retained as its financial adviser.

The team said in a press release that "a condition of any sale will be that the team remains in Ottawa."

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

Melnyk purchased the Senators in 2003 for US$92 million at a time when the franchise faced bankruptcy and a tenuous future in the nation's capital.

A recent valuation from Sportico, an organization that reports on the business of sports, listed the Senators at $655 million.

The team's day-to-day operations have been handled by the board of directors since Melnyk's death.

Speculation about interested buyers swirled Friday, including a report from People magazine, citing an unnamed source, that said Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds is interested in adding the team to his business portfolio.

A representative for Reynolds did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The "Deadpool" star and fellow actor Rob McElhenney recently purchased Welsh soccer club Wrexham AFC.

Under Melnyk, the Senators played in the Stanley Cup final in 2007 when Ottawa lost in five games to the Anaheim Ducks.

Ottawa nearly returned to the Cup final a decade later but lost the deciding game of the conference final in double overtime. Since that loss, the Senators have missed the playoffs in five straight seasons.

Melnyk's relationship with the Senators' fanbase soured as the years went on.

The owner's comments before a 2017 outdoor game in Ottawa, indicating he could move the team in the future if attendance didn't increase, sparked a "#MelnykOut'' campaign on city billboards and social media.

Ottawa is off to a 4-6-0 start this season despite boasting a talented young core and making significant off-season moves, including the addition of forwards Claude Giroux and Alex DeBrincat.

A new owner will have to figure out where the Senators will play on a long-term basis.

The team has played at the Canadian Tire Centre in Kanata, about 25 kilometres away from Ottawa's downtown core, since the arena opened in 1996.

The Senators have once again expressed interest in building an arena at LeBreton Flats, just west of Parliament Hill. The National Capital Commission said in July that a group led by the NHL franchise is the preferred bidder for developing the site.

The team had previously looked at moving to the area, but the plan fell apart with Melnyk and his business partners suing each other.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 4, 2022.

The Canadian Press