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Bettman To Francesa: Interest Level In Purchasing Islanders Is High

NHL Commissioner Says Current Owner Wang Has Received Several Overtures
New York Islanders owner Charles Wang back in 2011. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

New York Islanders owner Charles Wang back in 2011. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Islanders may have a new owner soon, at least that’s the read NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has on the situation.

Bettman said Tuesday that current owner Charles Wang has received a “number of expressions of interest” from potential buyers. Though nothing appears imminent, the Islanders remain an attractive franchise, even with all of their well-documented problems over the last two decades.

“The last public communication on this was Charles Wang’s statement saying that he is listening to the expressions of interest that he’s getting, and he hasn’t decided whether or not he’s going to take them to the next step. But he is listening,” Bettman told ESPN. “I spoke to him as recently as this morning, and his position on that has not changed, but he is getting a number of expressions of interest.”

Bettman expanded on those comments on Wednesday during an interview with WFAN’s Mike Francesa.

“Charles hasn’t decided whether or not he’s definitely going to sell,” Bettman said. “He’s very attached to the Islanders. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that.  He’s looking forward to the move to Barclays.”

At this point, the leading candidate to buy the team is believed to be Philadelphia attorney Andrew Barroway, who once expressed interest in buying the New Jersey Devils. Just how far the two sides have advanced in their talks is unknown, but the NY Post recently reported Wang was in talks with Barroway to sellicon1 Bettman To Francesa: Interest Level In Purchasing Islanders Is High the team for $225 million, plus another $75 million if the Islanders hit certain revenue targets.

Wang, who has owned the team outright since 2004, agreed to move the Islanders to Brooklyn on a 25-year lease with Barclays Center after a number of proposals to stay in Nassau County failed. The franchise will officially call the borough its home during the 2015-16 season.

Perhaps a big reason why there is interest in the club, as Bettman and Wang have said, is due to the fact that Barclays Center will reportedly guarantee $50 million in revenue to the Islanders per season. Add that to the team’s lucrative television contract and it’s easier to understand the potential money-making force the Islanders could be once they get to Brooklyn and regardless, at least initially, of whether or not they are good on the ice.

The Islanders have what is considered an iron-clad 25-year lease with Barclays Center, so this idea that a potential buyer could step in and move the team seems far-fetched, according to Bettman.

“I don’t think there are any outs in it. I believe it’s a firm lease. Anybody buying the Islanders should expect to be going to Brooklyn, which isn’t a bad thing,” Bettman told Francesa.

Coming off their first playoff appearance in six seasons, the Islanders had high hopes heading into 2013-14, but failures to address certain needs, coupled with an early season swoon and second-half injuries, doomed their playoff hopes and led to a 34-37-11 record.

The Islanders will pick No. 5 in the upcoming draft, provided they decide not to give the pick to Buffalo to complete October’s trade for winger Thomas Vanek. If they keep the pick they would have to turn over their first-rounder in 2015.

General manager Garth Snow recently announced that head coach Jack Capuano would return next season and the belief is the Isles will attempt to be major players on the trade front and free agency market this summer.

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