At this point, if the Ottawa Senators were a horse, you’d shoot it out of mercy. The franchise has been rocked by scandal after scandal in the past six months, from veiled threats by owner Eugene Melnyk to Randy Lee’s arrest to the whole Mike Hoffman situation. The Hoffman ordeal ended in a lopsided trade with San Jose that saw Ottawa take on Mikkel Boedker’s $4 million cap hit for the next two seasons, only to see the Sharks flip Hoffman to Florida, putting the scoring winger back in Ottawa’s division next season. Oh, and the Senators already traded their first-rounder in 2019 to Colorado, so if Ottawa “wins” the draft lottery, Jack Hughes becomes a member of the Avalanche.
The latest news comes from The Fourth Period’s Dave Pagnotta, who reports that the Senators had an offer to buy the franchise from Melnyk. The initial offer was apparently rejected, but negotiations are not dead. The name being floated around is Cirque Du Soleil co-founder Guy Laliberte, a billionaire from Quebec. Pagnotta also reports that superstar defenseman Erik Karlsson, who has one year left on his contract, will not re-sign if Melnyk is still owner.
Should Melnyk sell? Oh, most definitely. He’s one of those sports owners that does more harm than good and his reluctance to spend money (relative to his peers) has kneecapped the franchise for years. He has alienated the best player in franchise history (sorry, Daniel Alfredsson fans, but he was a second-team all star once; Karlsson has been a first-team all-star multiple times, not to mention his Norris trophies) and things will only get worse from here on out if he doesn’t step aside.
Now, I do have a slight concern for Ottawa fans that a Quebec-based owner might move the team to Quebec City. It only stands to reason, right? The Senators have attendance issues already and I can’t imagine what 2018-19 is going to bring, given the sad state of the roster. Quebec City has a beautiful new NHL arena in the Centre Videotron ready to go.
Commissioner Gary Bettman never favors re-location, but I guarantee the owners who pay his salary don’t mind, since that re-location fee goes into their pockets. And you’re not losing a Canadian team in the switch; it’s a lateral move. Seattle is going to be an expansion team and there’s no way the NHL goes past 32 franchises in the next decade, so this is the play for Ottawa - especially since Carolina and Florida seem to be in more stable territory right now.
If Melnyk does sell and the team remains in Ottawa, that’s obviously great for Senators fans. I can’t speak to what it would mean for the new arena plans for LeBreton Flats, but based on Melnyk’s history, who knows how that will turn out if things stay status quo?
I’ve always thought of pro sports ownership having at least a modicum of public trust involved, but maybe I’m naive. Melnyk has every right to hold onto this franchise and do whatever he wants with it. But the Ottawa Senators will wither even further under his stewardship. His attendance concerns will only get worse and the team will struggle to be competitive on the ice.
If I was him, I’d take the money and run.