Speaking to the media before his tenth annual Skate for Kids, Senators owner Eugene Melnyk dropped a number of interesting nuggets concerning the Senators and some business relations that will assuredly generate some revenue for the organization.
Eugene Melnyk says he has had preliminary talks with GM Bryan Murray on an extension. #Sens— Bruce Garrioch (@SunGarrioch) December 16, 2013
Melnyk says both sides want a deal to happen but the talks have to continue. #Sens— Bruce Garrioch (@SunGarrioch) December 16, 2013
In a story later Ken Warren had the full quotes:
“We’ve had some preliminary talks, me and Bryan."
“I would love to see Bryan here next year and he would like to finish up with a Stanley Cup and I would like to see him leave with a Stanley Cup. But those talks are preliminary. We’ll just continue talking and let things work out where they work out.”
“Everybody’s in a better position when you have a nice winning streak and the opportunities are there. Right now (Murray) would like to stay. I would like him to stay. But right at this very moment, it’s not a priority and we’ve got some time.”
I don't want to over-emphasize the importance of getting Bryan Murray inked to an extension, but will.
Granted, Bryan Murray has built up an incredible amount of equity with this fan base for overseeing a rebuild that never really necessitated difficult decisions. Maybe that glosses over how difficult it must have been to cut the ties with likeable, high character guys like Mike Fisher, but it’s not like he ever moved any of this team’s elite players like a Spezza or an Alfredsson for example.
He did move Heatley, but that the player requested a trade and it predated the organization’s willingness to throw in the towel.
So why keep Murray?
It’s pretty straightforward. His nephew and Assistant GM, Tim Murray, who Melnyk joked would never let interview for Toronto (har-har), has instead interviewed for another division rival's vacant GM position - although it remains to seen whether he gets it.
Without a contract in hand for Bryan, the organization is potentially at risk of losing both their AGM and GM at a critical juncture.
The timing would certainly put a new GM in the uneviable position of having to make important decisions on number of players who are slated to hit UFA in 2015.
And there is simply no way Melnyk can ensure that any new prospective GM, who would be brought in from the outside, could come in and make difficult decisions on the future direction of this franchise.
To his credit, Bryan Murray has done an excellent job revamping and revitalizing the amateur scouting staff and the way the organization scouts. He has also made his best moves during this rebuild by buying low on undervalued players like Craig Anderson (shitty team), Marc Methot (injury), Kyle Turris (reputation) and Ben Bishop (risk of St. Louis losing him to UFA because he would not get in enough NHL games).
But, like any external candidate who could walk into Bryan Murray’s position, can fans count on Bryan Murray being able to make the shrewd, proactive decisions that can make this small market team a contender?
Like Tim Murray’s future, it remains to be seen.
So what do I make of Melnyk's confidence that a deal can get done?
I don't know.
I just know that after Alfie's decision to leave, I'm not taking anything for granted.
Speaking of Tim Murray, Melnyk touched upon the decision to let the Assistant General Manager interview with the Sabres.
Melnyk says he wasn't going to stand in AGM Tim Murray's way when the Sabres asked for permission to speak to him. #Sens— Bruce Garrioch (@SunGarrioch) December 16, 2013
It's very possible that Tim Murray is comfortable looking elsewhere because he knows that Bryan would like to be at the helm for a few more years in Ottawa. Conversely, maybe he simply looks at the interview process as a really good experience for someone who simply has not had to interview too often for jobs in the NHL.
Broadcast Rights Up For Grabs...
Melnyk says talks have begun for the club's regional TV rights and the club has competing bids. #Sens— Bruce Garrioch (@SunGarrioch) December 16, 2013
According to Garrioch's article this morning, not only are the television rights up for bid, the radio rights are included as well.
The Senators should be able to cash in on their local TV and radio rights. Deals with Rogers Sportsnet (TV) and TSN 1200 (radio) expire at the end of the season.
Melnyk said there is a bidding war between the two rivals for the rights next season.
From what I have heard, Sportsnet's fear that Bell Media would swoop in with a massive offer and procure regional rights is very palpable; especially considering the rumours that Bell's bid for the content was not far removed from the $5.2 billion winning bid.
TSN 1200 already broadcasts Sens games and with the way that Rogers secured the Canadian national broadcast rights, Bell will have to spend their money somehow. It was impossible not to notice TSN's gameday presence when they made the decision to bring their panel up to Ottawa to broadcast live from the Canadian Tire Centre for Alfie's return. Not to mention the fact that James Duthie, Bob McKenzie, and Darren Dreger have spurned other networks to re-sign with TSN. It isn't too difficult to read the tea leaves here.
Mind you, it's no secret that Rogers has increased its sports presence here on radio. 1310 is simulcasting the Fan 590's sports programming throughout the weekdays and already broadcasts Blue Jays baseball games here in the capital.
So, who knows?
Sportsnet has been with the Senators' regional broadcast partner for years, but if you're expecting any loyalty in this relationship at the expense of dollars, think again. This is the same owner who removed Marshy's from the Canadian Tire Centre and replaced it with his own Bert's Bar.
Eventually this matter will culminate in the two broadcasting powers bidding against each other and it's going to line Eugene Melnyk's pockets in the process. Which is great for his stability and this franchise's, but it is only going to increase the expectation that he invest some or most of that revenue into the team's payroll.
The Biggest Surprise From Yesterday's Skate For Kids?
That former GM John Muckler had infiltrated the Senators' arena: