“Under Pressure” is a preseason series we’ll be running on PHT. For each team in the NHL, we’ll pick one player, coach, GM, mascot or whatever that everyone will be watching closely this season. Feel free to play the song as you read along. Also feel free to go to the comment section and tell us we picked poorly.
For the Ottawa Senators we picked…owner Eugene Melnyk.
The only owner we picked for this series (congratulations?), Melnyk is under pressure because, well, to put it bluntly, nobody seems to know if he’s super rich anymore.
He’s not really acting like a super rich guy. From allowing beloved captain Daniel Alfredsson to sign with Detroit, to fighting with the city over a casino, there’s a reason people are wondering if he’s got deep enough pockets to maintain his ownership of the Sens, a team he claims to have lost almost $100 million on.
What is his net worth now? It’s hard to say. Over the past decade, he has cashed in shares valued at hundreds of millions of dollars — but he is also a heavy spender. He divorced several years ago and maintains a small army of thoroughbred horses in Florida and a mansion in Barbados. His investments in biotech firms Trimel Pharmaceuticals and PurGenesis of Quebec have not been cheap. Forbes Magazine estimates his Senators are worth $220 million U.S. as a team, though it is also carrying about $130 million U.S. in debt.
Let’s put it this way: Melnyk is behaving as though he no longer has unlimited resources — which is not a bad thing for any business owner. Whether it means he is now considering options such as lining up another equity partner for the Senators or perhaps selling the team outright, is not yet clear.
Melnyk, who made his fortune in pharmaceuticals, has stated strongly that the Sens are not for sale. But at the very least, they’re clearly on a budget. According to CapGeek, they have the third-lowest payroll in the NHL, spending more than only the forever-cash-strapped Islanders and rebuilding Flames.
It begs a bunch of questions: Will the Sens get the go-ahead to add salary at the trade deadline, assuming they’re in a position to make a run at the Stanley Cup? What is Milan Michalek’s future with the team, given he can become an unrestricted free agent next summer? What is the future for Jason Spezza and Bobby Ryan, each of whom can become UFAs the summer after that?
“You can spend to the cap — it’s very easy. Any idiot can do that,” Melnyk said last year.
And it’s true — any idiot can do that. But it’s also true that the majority of recent Cup-winning teams have been teams that spend to, or very near, the upper limit. And right now, that’s not the Sens.
For all of our Under Pressure series, click here.