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Bettman: Timeline on Sens' sale a 'matter of weeks'

Claude Giroux Vince Dunn Ottawa Senators Seattle Kraken Claude Giroux Vince Dunn - The Canadian Press

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman says the timeline for the sale of the Ottawa Senators is "a matter of weeks" as the league moves on to the next stage of the process. 

"As we get to Phase 2, it's a matter of weeks," he told reporters at the end of the league's general managers' meetings on Wednesday.

When asked to describe what happens in Phase 2, Bettman replied, "You begin the process of winnowing down the number of interested parties, and while you're reducing the number of parties, you're hopefully increasing the magnitude of their interest - for those that are remaining."

The team announced last November – eight months after the passing of owner Eugene Melnyk – that it was officially up for sale and that any new ownership would not be allowed to move the franchise out of the city. Los Angeles-based magazine Sportico valued the Senators at $655 million last October, while NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly estimated last month the sale price will be more than $800 million and could eclipse $1 billion.

"It's a work in progress," said Bettman on Wednesday. "I think it's fair to say there is robust interest - in a meaningful and significant way - in the Senators and the process will continue."

Bruce Garrioch of Postmedia reported last week that the first round of bidders include Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds with The Remington Group led by Markham-based developer Christopher Bratty, a group led by Montreal Canadiens minority owner Michael Andlauer, Windsor-based construction and land developer Rocco Tullio, Toronto billionaires Jeffrey and Michael Kimel, as well as owners of the Harlo Financial Group.

"The first round of bidding is in the books," said Bettman. "I'm not prepared to share 'who or what,' but I think everybody involved in the process feels good about the level of interest - both in terms of the number of bidders and the magnitude of interest. And a lot of the reporting on it has been more speculation than accurate, but that's okay.

"This is a process that is best conducted the way these processes are, which is among the parties directly involved."

Bettman added that the sale of the Senators would not be tied to a new arena for the team. "That will be up to the new owner as to how they want to proceed," he explained. "But I do believe there will be a good opportunity for somebody who's interested in possibly moving downtown to LeBreton Flats.  

"But that will ultimately be the call - whether or not they want to do that, obviously there's a lot to be done with the NCC (National Capital Commission) and the city of Ottawa. But ultimately, whether or not the new owner wants to stay in the existing arena or move downtown is a decision they'll get to make."