PALM BEACH, Fla. — There was no sign of Ryan Reynolds anywhere on the grounds of the historic Breakers Hotel this week.
But there’s every indication he’ll eventually be welcomed at a future NHL Board of Governors meeting.
The Hollywood megastar is eager to take his place among the league’s powerbrokers and remains interested in joining the Ottawa Senators' next ownership group. While he hasn’t formally aligned with any of the more than 12 interested bidders that have signed non-disclosure agreements to access the franchise’s books, he made a strong impression on Gary Bettman and Bill Daly during a recent meeting.
“He’s very smart,” Bettman said Tuesday. “He has a number of businesses besides the acting business and he understands sports and he understands promotion. I think he told us his followers on all of his platforms combined are well over 100 million.
“He’s somebody who is very popular and very engaged.”
The commissioner went so far as to say that it would be “great” for the Senators and the league if Reynolds was part of the group that bought the team from Eugene Melnyk’s daughters. Daly, the deputy commissioner, clarified that Reynolds won’t automatically be included in the winning group’s bid, but it’s clear he’d be enthusiastically welcomed into this exclusive club with open arms.
In addition to all of those social media followers, Reynolds holds strong appeal because he spent part of his childhood in Ottawa and has already shown an ability to leverage his film company, Maximum Effort, to boost a sporting pursuit through his ownership of Welsh soccer team Wrexham AFC.
Bill Daly confirms there's "considerable interest" from bidders on the #sens.— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) December 12, 2022
"It should be a healthy process."
The Sens sale process is expected to kick into high gear in January.
Interested parties will soon be given access to the data room to review the team’s financials, and Galatioto Sports Partners — the firm hired to oversee the sale — will start taking preliminary bids from there.
Expect to hear more about Reynolds’ involvement then.
The NHL’s investigation into sexual assault allegations against members of the 2018 Canadian world junior team hasn’t quite wrapped up.
The league has been careful not to impede a potential ongoing criminal investigation by London Police. It sounds like some of the early findings there have prompted the NHL to do follow-up interviews and diligence.
“We still have some work to do,” Bettman said. “We understand that two other investigations are still going. We have some more work to do in terms of coordinating, particularly with the players’ association, but I think we’re certainly in the home stretch.”
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It remains to be seen whether the NHL will make any decisions on potential discipline before the police investigation wraps up. A source suggests that suspensions are possible for the players even if criminal charges aren’t laid.
How much of the findings are released publicly will hinge on the wishes from police.
“We’ll be in touch with the London Police Department," Daly said. "And we’ll defer to them if there’s a concern that they have that any announcement by us might interfere with what they’re trying to do. We’ll obviously defer to them. But we’re not there yet.”
The governors were told that next season’s salary cap is likely only moving up to $83.5 million, which would be an increase of $1 million.
That was not welcome news to the several general managers in attendance.
It’s a result of the fact the league is projecting that the pandemic-related debt incurred by players will not entirely be repaid to owners by the end of the season, according to Bettman.
That total started at $1.5 billion and is projected to be down to $70 million by the end of 2022-23. Should the Canadian dollar gain more strength or some of the highest-revenue teams go on an extended playoff run between now and the end of June, it could still be wiped out entirely, which would see next year’s cap go north of $86 million.
Bettman bristled when questioned about the third cap-related option still on the table: That the NHL and NHL Players’ Association might negotiate a smoothing scenario that sees moderate increases until that debt is wiped out.
“That’s not something that we’re discussing right now,” Bettman said. “Why are you even suggesting that it’s a possibility? Are you negotiating? Has the union suggested that? I mean, it is what it is.”
There is definitely interest among NHL teams in the possibility of adding a play-in or wild card round before the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but Bettman wants no part of that discussion.
It was a popular topic whispered over a beer or coffee here.
However, the commissioner sees absolutely no reason to alter a format that has 16 of 32 teams qualifying for the post-season each year.
“You’re looking to fix a problem that doesn’t exist,” Bettman said.
It’s notable that none of the league’s major media partners has yet come forward with a compelling case to add those games. That could eventually move the needle. Money talks.
Among the new ideas we caught wind of this week was potentially having the two lowest teams in the NHL standings playing for the right to draft No. 1 overall.
I didn’t get a chance to run that one by Bettman, but it’s safe to assume he probably wouldn’t be in favour.