The NHL playoffs are heating up with two second-round series still ongoing to determine who will join the Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers in the conference finals, but some of the hottest action is happening off the ice, as final nonbinding offers to buy the Ottawa Senators are due Monday.
Nine different groups submitted bids ahead of the first March deadline, with some of the offers north of $900 million, and this round could approach $1 billion, the current record for an NHL team.
The bid from actor Ryan Reynolds and real estate developer Remington Group received the most attention. The group recently pushed for an exclusive 30-day negotiating period to secure a new downtown arena deal for the club, according to sources and first reported by ESPN. The request was rejected by Galatioto Sports Partners, which was hired to sell the team last fall by the family of late owner Eugene Melnyk. The Reynolds group is not expected to make another bid for Monday.
A representative for Galatioto Sports Partners declined to comment.
Bidding has been vibrant, even though the team generated the third lowest revenue in the NHL last season and has consistently lost money. It is the first Canadian hockey team to hit the market since the Toronto Maple Leafs were sold in 2012, and the Senators offer a large real estate opportunity. In June, the club signed a memorandum of understanding for a new downtown arena at the LeBreton Flats site. The team currently plays at the antiquated Canadian Tire Centre, which is located 16 miles outside of downtown Ottawa. There are still many steps between the MOU and an arena opening, but securing a new venue would dramatically increase the value of the franchise. Last year, Sportico valued the Senators at $655 million, 27th in the 32-team league.
The current record for an NHL team sale was set when Rogers Communications and BCE bought 75% of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which also included the Toronto Raptors, Air Canada Center (now Scotiabank Arena), Toronto FC, BMO Field, and other facilities and minor league teams. The Leafs were valued at $1 billion as part of the transaction. The Senators’ sale price will almost certainly top the $900 million Fenway Sports Group paid for the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2021. The Penguins generated $60 million more revenue in 2021-22 than the Senators, who earned an estimated $134 million.
There are thought to be roughly a half-dozen suitors still interested in the Senators, including Montreal Canadiens minority owner Michael Andlauer, as well as Michael Kimel, CEO of private equity firm Harlo Capital and a minority owner of the Penguins before FSG bought the team.
Melnyk made his fortune in the pharmaceutical industry and bought the team out of bankruptcy for $92 million in 2003. He was credited for keeping the team in Ottawa but later sparred with fans over controversial trades and attendance issues, as well as with local officials in his attempts to build a new arena. He died last year at age 62, and his two daughters inherited the team.
The Senators have missed the playoffs in six straight seasons.