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Is Melnyk Entertaining Offers to Sell the Team? Is Rome Burning?

According to legend, in 64 AD Roman Emperor Nero allegedly set fire to the great city so that he could raze many of the old buildings and build himself a new palace. Fast forward a few millennia and suddenly rumours are floating around that Senators owner Eugene Melnyk may be courting offers to sell the team. Here's what Patrick Johnston wrote this week in the Vancouver Province, quoting a source he trusts:

Anyway, it was interesting to hear Eugene Melnyk is entertaining offers for the Senators and obviously a potential sale could complicate any management or coach changes this year.

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It also sounds as though the twice-dead LeBreton deal could be back on the table as well!

“We’re always open and interested in a new multi-purpose entertainment facility at LeBreton Flats,” Melnyk told Postmedia in a statement Thursday. “And understand how it can benefit our fans and the Ottawa Senators hockey club generally.”

Which begs the question, is Melnyk pulling a Nero? Or do the “Rome is burning” parallels end at the dumpster fire that the Senators 2021-22 season has become?

If you include Thursday night’s “Forsberg-ler-esque” win, the Senators are currently on pace for 42pts this season. That would make 2021-22 the 5th worst season in franchise history from a points perspective, besting only the first 4 years of the modern Senators existence from 1992-1996. Adding insult to injury, unless they pick up the pace they’ll be shy of both last year’s COVID shortened point total (56 games) and the 2012-13 lockout season (48 games).

Industry insiders such as Chris Johnston and Elliotte Friedman have also hinted in recent days there may be more to the whispers of an impending sale than just hearsay. With the recent purchase of the Pittsburgh Penguins by the Fenway Sports Group for north of $900M, perhaps Melnyk is finally looking to cash in on his 2003 investment. While an Ottawa sale wouldn’t command the kind of return the Penguins did (a 2020 Forbes valuation had Ottawa listed as the 26th most valuable NHL franchise at roughly $450M USD), Melnyk would easily be looking at a 5 times return on his initial $92M USD purchase price. This figure could be even higher if one is to believe the rumour that the NHL wants to set a minimum sale price of $750M for any potential ownership transfers moving forward.

Melnyk has previously stated he has no intention of selling the team. Which is exactly what you’d say if you were looking to sell an asset and drive up the price. While fans in the nation’s capital have seen this song and dance before, it remains a situation worth monitoring. After all, Marc Bergevin was fired after Montreal’s slow start (while the team was missing their best blue liner and all-world goaltender) only a few months removed from a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Dorion meanwhile has been overseeing the Senators rebuild since 2017-18 without much to show for his efforts. In fact, some would argue the Senators have actually regressed this season under Smith & Dorion’s management. So why wouldn’t we have heard anything from Melnyk, who has never been one to mince words in the past, unless there was a concerted effort to not rock the boat in the media in front of prospective investors?

Is Melnyk sitting idly by as his empire goes up in flames around him? Or could he be hoping that from the ashes he can build his new palace like his Roman counterpart (preferably at a downtown location)? Hard to say. But where there’s smoke there’s usually fire, and had Carolina successfully completed the comeback on Thursday, we would have been inching closer to a 5 alarm blaze at the CTC.

By Kyle Skinner | Sens Nation Staff

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