Penguins owners Ron Burkle and Mario Lemieux exploring sale options

Pittsburgh Penguins owners Ron Burkle and Mario Lemieux are exploring selling some or all of their NHL franchise.

The owners hired Morgan Stanley, the company that facilitated the sale of the Buffalo Sabres to Terry Pegula, to evaluate their options.

"We conduct periodic reviews of our business and, because we have received several inquiries about the franchise in recent years, we decided to engage Morgan Stanley for their insight and counsel," Lemieux and Burkle said in a joint statement. "After buying the team out of bankruptcy, ensuring its long-term future in Pittsburgh and creating a strong foundation for continued success, we believe it is time to explore our options."

According to TSN, which first reported the news, Lemieux is thought to have the greater interest in getting his equity share out of the franchise. But should Burkle and Lemieux choose to sell, they would like to retain some involvement with the team. Lemieux may consider retaining a smaller ownership stake if he does indeed sell, a source told ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun.

Lemieux and Burkle have owned the Penguins since 1999 when Lemieux, with the help of the billionaire businessman, turned the deferred salary the team owed him into equity to buy the bankrupt team.

"Our goal all along was to solidify the franchise both on and off the ice," Lemieux said in the statement. "Our star players are signed to long-term contracts, they've got a deep and passionate base to support them, and I believe the Penguins are well-positioned for the future. Regardless of what happens, I plan on staying involved with the team in some capacity, and Ron and I plan to retain an ownership stake."