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Report: Sens' suitors in Ottawa this week, Bettman to visit capital Monday

Drake Batherson Drake Batherson - The Canadian Press

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly will be in Ottawa next Monday, while six potential bidding groups for the Senators will visit the city this week to see the workings of the organization in person, Bruce Garrioch of Postmedia reported on Tuesday.

Garrioch adds that Bettman and Daly will attend Monday’s game against the Florida Panthers at the Canadian Tire Centre (part of their annual tour of the NHL's 32 arenas) and will also visit with Ottawa mayor Mark Sutcliffe and officials from the National Capital Commission (NCC).

"As we get to Phase 2 [of the sale process], it's a matter of weeks," Bettman told reporters at the league's general managers' meetings last week, adding that the second phase is where, "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 Daly estimated last month the sale price will be more than $800 million and could eclipse $1 billion.

Garrioch reports that the six groups visiting the nation's capital this week are believed to include Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds and 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 of the Harlo Financial Group, Los Angeles-based producer Neko Sparks, along with businessman and owner of The Hockey News Graeme Roustan and First Nation's Group.

Bettman added last week that the sale of the Senators would not necessarily 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 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."