June 28, 2018 | 9:00am ET
BY DAVID PAGNOTTA, The Fourth Period
SENATORS RECEIVE OFFER FOR FRANCHISE
TORONTO, ON -- Patience is a virtue, and while fans of the Ottawa Senators have struggled to hold on to that trait, they may finally be getting what they’ve long asked for.
Speaking on the basis on anonymity, a well-placed source with direct knowledge of the situation has confirmed to TFP that Senators owner Eugene Melnyk has engaged in negotiations to sell the franchise.
According to the league-source, Melnyk has received one offer for the organization and that “offer had been considered.”
During last week’s Board of Governors meeting in Las Vegas, while not officially on the agenda, league owners discussed the $135 million refinancing loan the Senators announced they finalized on Wednesday and also discussed the offer pitched for the club.
The offer is believed to have been rejected, but word is negotiations are ongoing and Melynk is exploring options.
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly acknowledged this report when contacted via email early Thursday morning, and wanted to temper the subject by stating that he doesn’t “equate an offer to purchase the Sens (and reporting that offer to the board) with an intention or desire to sell the team. The two are very different in my mind.”
As per the Senators’ press release yesterday, the team’s newly acquired loan was “financing of a six-year senior term debt with a syndicate of financial institutions.”
It’s not yet been confirmed, but there is strong belief the interested party in the franchise is, or includes, Cirque du Soleil co-founder Guy Laliberte, who has a net worth of $1.37 billion and has expressed interest in the Senators in the past. It’s also believed Laliberte may have played a role in the Senators securing their latest $135M loan.
Word around the League is the asking price for the Senators and the Canadian Tire Centre is hovering around $650 million to $700 million; I’m told the initial offer discussed fell well below that range.
According to Forbes, per their team valuations in Nov. 2017, the Senators are valued at $420 million.
How the potential sale of the club affects ongoing trade negotiations involving Senators captain Erik Karlsson is unclear.
Karlsson, 28, has one-year remaining on his contract, which comes with a $6.5 million salary cap hit. The native of Landsbro, Sweden, is one of the top defencemen in the NHL and is expected to command an annual salary of at least $12 million.
If things in Ottawa remain status quo and Melnyk decides to pull the club from the table, multiple sources have confirmed Karlsson will “definitely” not sign an extension with the Senators.
Holding on to one of the game’s best players could add significant value to a new prospective owner or ownership group, but freeing up Karlsson’s current and future contract, along with that of Bobby Ryan’s, may also be an attractive incentive.
Ryan, 31, has four-year left on his contract and comes with a $7.25 million salary cap hit.
Currently, the Senators are speaking with three teams about packaging Karlsson and Ryan in a deal, with the Vegas Golden Knights and New York Rangers being two of the three clubs.
According to multiple sources, the Knights and Senators inched closer to a trade last week ahead of the NHL Draft, but the deal hit a significant roadblock when Sens GM Pierre Dorion asked to change part of the return. Talks are still ongoing between the two teams.
The Senators have also had lengthy trade talks with the New York Islanders about goaltender Craig Anderson, who has asked to be moved, going back to last week, and it’s possible those discussions pick up further steam in the coming days.
Anderson, 37, has two-years remaining on his contract and has a $4.75 million cap hit.
Melnyk purchased the Senators in 2003 for $100 million and its arena, then named the Corel Centre, for $27.5 million.
He and John Ruddy, of Trinity Developments, are the principal parties behind RendezVous LeBreton, a group approved by the National Capital Commission to redevelop the LeBreton Flats area of Ottawa, which includes the construction of a new arena for the Senators. It’s unclear, at this stage, how the team’s future home will affect negotiations for the franchise or if the NCC will alter its agreement with the group.
Talks to sell the franchise are expected to continue and could push forward into the 2018-19 regular-season.