Senators complete sale of team to Michael Andlauer: The most pressing issues facing Ottawa’s new owner

Toronto billionaire Michael Andlauer’s bid to buy the Ottawa Senators has been approved by the NHL’s Board of Governors and the deal is now complete, the team announced Thursday. Here’s what you need to know:

  • The Athletic reported in June that a group led by Andlauer agreed to purchase the team for $950 million.
  • The sale process began last November following the death of former owner Eugene Melnyk. His daughters Anna and Olivia are expected to retain a 10 percent interest in the club through the family’s estate.
  • “The Ottawa Senators Hockey Club is an amazing organization, from the players to the staff to the most passionate fanbase in the game,” Andlauer said in a release. “My family and I are thrilled to officially be a part of Ottawa’s team and the Ottawa-Gatineau community. Thank you to the NHL and the Melnyk family for the opportunity to make this a reality and entrusting me to steward this remarkable franchise into the future.”

The Athletic’s instant analysis:

What do we anticipate Andlauer will say in his first press conference?

Andlauer spoke very briefly at the Senators charity golf tournament this week, but his introductory press conference will be his first opportunity to field questions from the Ottawa media.

It wouldn’t be a total surprise to see Andlauer open up about his philosophy on hockey operations and trying to build a winning team. Steve Staios — who served as his president of hockey operations and general manager of Hamilton’s OHL team — is certainly a candidate to assume a key role with the Senators under Andlauer. So Andlauer’s initial press conference could give us a window into how the new owner plans to structure his hockey operations department.

Beyond that, we should probably expect a gracious and reflective Andlauer on the podium, talking about how owning an NHL franchise has been his lifelong dream.

We may also get a chance to hear from some of the key members of the ownership group, including George Armoyan Sr., who the team announced will be serving as the Senators first alternate governor. Olivia and Anna Melnyk — daughters of the late owner Eugene Melnyk — are also expected to be on hand for the event and we might get a sense of what their minority role in the hockey team could be in the future. — Mendes

Could we get sense of why sale took more than 10 months to complete?

This has been a painfully long process that started when the Senators were put up for sale back in November. The Washington Commanders in the NFL were put up for sale around the same time, but they finalized their $6.05 billion sale to a group led by Josh Harris in July. The Senators’ process to close out the $950 million transaction was certainly on the long side, even when compared to the Commanders, who sold for more than six times as much as Ottawa.

Was this a more complicated transaction than usual NHL franchise sales? Did the fact that the estate of Eugene Melnyk was involved add extra layers of red tape? And did all the extra sizzle from celebrities such as Ryan Reynolds, Snoop Dogg and The Weeknd, create a distraction to the whole process?

Andlauer may shed some light on that during his press conference, giving us a window into what the process was like for him. — Mendes

What are the most pressing issues facing the new owner?

Right away, Andlauer needs to fill the role of president on the business side of the hockey club. Anthony LeBlanc — who previously held that title — left the organization a couple of months ago. There is a very good chance that former team president Cyril Leeder will be at Friday’s news conference and will inherit his old post, which could alleviate a major concern from the business side of things.

Beyond that, there shouldn’t be too many pressing issues on Andlauer’s doorstep. He’ll need to figure out what type of role — if any — franchise icon Daniel Alfredsson could have with the organization. Alfredsson has stated he would like to play a role in helping shape the club’s on-ice product. But this feels like an item that can be handled at some point within the next few weeks.

And soon enough, Andlauer will have to tackle the downtown arena project. As it stands now, the Senators have a tentative deal in place to build an arena on a parcel of land at LeBreton Flats. However, there are still a lot of hurdles to clear even before they think about breaking ground on that site. And there will be a lot of posturing from the political and business community to explore other downtown locations before the Senators settle on LeBreton Flats. Expect that to be the biggest item on Andlauer’s agenda once he’s two or three months into the job. — Mendes

(Photo: Jaylynn Nash / Getty Images)

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