Latest LeBreton setback could mean 2nd chance for Sens owner Melnyk

One of the principals behind DCDLS, the runner-up partnership seeking to develop LeBreton Flats, says his plans for the site include the Ottawa Senators and owner Eugene Melnyk.

'We believe the future of the Senators is to play hockey on LeBreton.'

Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk is seen at the Canadian Tire Centre for the team's annual skate for kids on Dec. 20, 2018. The NCC has terminated his group's bid to redevelop LeBreton Flats, but the runners-up for the project have said they'd be willing to work with him. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

One of the principals behind DCDLS, the runner-up partnership seeking to develop LeBreton Flats, says his plans for the site include the Ottawa Senators and owner Eugene Melnyk.

Devcore president Jean-Pierre Poulin told CBC Ottawa that his group is looking at ways of bringing Melnyk back into the picture, for the sake of having NHL hockey downtown. 

"We believe Mr. Melnyk is the hockey man and we believe the future of the Senators is to play hockey on LeBreton," said Poulin. "So there's a placeholder there for him."

We believe Mr.  Melnyk  is the hockey man.- Jean-Pierre  Poulin , DCDLS

Poulin's group, which includes billionaires André Desmarais, Guy Laliberté and Bill Sinclair, has said it's eager to pick up the work already put in by the original winning bid from the RendezVous LeBreton Group. 

The NCC announced Wednesday it was terminating its agreement with RendezVous LeBreton following the dispute that erupted between Melnyk and Trinity Development chair John Ruddy. The pair are suing each other for hundreds of millions of dollars.

Limited options 

University of Ottawa sports management professor Eric MacIntosh thinks it's only a matter of time before the Ottawa Senators end up playing hockey at LeBreton Flats.

What isn't so clear, he said, is how long Melnyk can hold on to the team itself.

"You can tell based on the cuts that keep happening. There are more cuts than investments that we hear about," said MacIntosh. "Any time there are cuts, it tells me that things are getting more bare bones."

MacIntosh says the tight control on player salaries, the skeletal front office and Melnyk's assumption of president and CEO duties can only mean financial hardship for the club.

And with the timeline for a downtown arena back in the NCC's hands, can Melnyk continue to hold on to the team without a partnership with the likes of DCDLS?

Under the current circumstances, Melnyk's hold on the team's reins would only likely last for "three or four years maximum," MacIntosh said.

"The gate figures are trending down again. This is at least the third year in a row that's happening — and there's no indication that trend is reversing, despite having some promising young players on the team and some interesting games to watch," MacIntosh said.

"I'd be looking for ways out if I was [Melnyk]. You can't keep hemorrhaging​ money, and it seems that that's the case."

While MacIntosh believes the Senators can have a long and bright future in Ottawa, stability at the top needs to be restored — something that might come in the form of his former rivals on the LeBreton development bid.