Gary Bettman isn't concerned the development deal that would have included a new downtown arena for the Ottawa Senators is falling apart.
The NHL commissioner is, however, lamenting the plan that, as it stands now, appears to be dead.
"I would say I'm more disappointed with how this played out," Bettman said Monday at the NHL board of governors meetings. "But these are complicated matters."
Senators owner Eugene Melnyk is suing business partner John Ruddy for $700 million over the proposed LeBreton Flats project that would’ve seen the consortium develop a series of public spaces alongside residential offerings, as well as a new home for the Sens.
The statement of claim alleges their companies were unable to finalize a master development agreement and that there were "a number of breaches, all arising out of a conflict of interest, that directly resulted in the failure of the partnership."
The Senators have played in Kanata’s Canadian Tire Centre since 1996. Attendance has dropped dramatically in recent years, including a crowd of less than 11,000 at a recent game.
"For a whole host of reasons it would be nice (to have a downtown arena)," Bettman said. "But Mr. Melnyk has said if he has to make Canadian Tire Centre work, he can do that.
"Let's not draw any conclusions yet. This is a complicated situation, although in its original form, for a lot of reasons, some of which you've read in the complaint that's been filed, the project as originally envisioned unfortunately isn't viable."
Deputy commissioner Bill Daly said the league shares Melnyk's view that Canadian Tire Centre can still work as a viable NHL venue.
"He's the owner of the franchise and you have to defer to his local expertise," Daly said. "If he feels like he can make it work there long term, we'll certainly support that."
Devcore Canderel DLS Group, which was beaten out by Melnyk and Ruddy to develop LeBreton Flats in 2016, said in a statement Sunday it remains ready to take over the project should the current agreement be terminated.
DCDLS added its plan continues to include an NHL arena.
"Our team has the expertise, experience and the financial resources that are necessary to deliver a world-class project," the statement from Devcore president Jean-Pierre Poulin read. "We do not believe Ottawa or Canada should be held hostage one day longer."
Melnyk is not at the board of governors meetings being held at a posh resort on Georgia's coast, but Bettman said the NHL is willing to help with the process of getting a new arena built any way it can.
"There are some places where we have been involved in (and) I think (been) very constructive – Edmonton, Pittsburgh, among others come to mind," he said. "There have been other places where we've been dis-invited by one of the participants.
"We don't like to go where we're not welcome if it's not going to be helpful."
– With files from OBJ staff