Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk floated the notion of relocating his franchise, saying Friday that the team "could look good somewhere else" if its market conditions don't improve.
Melnyk spoke to reporters on the eve of the NHL 100 Classic, an outdoor game in Ottawa between the Montreal Canadiens and the Senators to commemorate the NHL's centennial.
His remarks came at a time when cities such as Seattle, Houston and Quebec City are all seeking NHL teams.
Melnyk told the assembled media on Parliament Hill that "the market here has to prove itself" despite Melnyk having owned the Senators since 2003.
"If it becomes a disaster, yes. If you start not seeing crowds showing up, yes," he said. "But for now we are on the cusp of doing OK. It's a direct relationship, make no mistake about it, between revenue and how much you spend on players. We are one of the biggest spenders in this league. We spend $68 million a year. Everyone says, 'You are cheap.' Are you kidding me? Even at $68 million, that's way too much over a revenue base that we have."
That hint at a cutback on player spending comes as franchise star defenseman Erik Karlsson is looking at free agency in Summer 2019, and recently said he will look at full market value when he reaches it.
Melnyk has been seeking an influx of cash to refurbish his arena in Kanata, Ontario, or to build a new arena in downtown Ottawa.
What he isn't seeking is to sell the team, or to take on a slew of new investors.
"Imagine if you own a McDonald's franchise, but you can move it," Melnyk said. "But why would you sell it? It's something that's very difficult to buy. We're doing OK here. We're not doing great, but we're doing OK."
The Senators are 10-13-7 and in second to last place in the Eastern Conference, after having lost in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final against Pittsburgh last postseason.