Gary Bettman: Isles drawing interest

Updated: April 23, 2014, 5:01 PM ET
By Katie Strang | ESPNNewYork.com

This story has been corrected. Read below.

PHILADELPHIA -- NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said he spoke with New York Islanders owner Charles Wang as recently as Tuesday morning and that Wang has received a "number of expressions of interest" in the potential sale of the team.

As ESPN.com and other outlets reported earlier this month, Philadelphia-based hedge fund manager Andrew Barroway has emerged as one of the suitors interested in acquiring the beleaguered franchise, although Bettman's comments revealed that he might have some competition.

"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 said. "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."

Wang, who became principal owner of the Islanders in 2004, admitted earlier this month that he was exploring options and listening to interested parties. The Islanders have hemorrhaged money in recent years but are slated to move to Brooklyn's Barclays Center beginning with the 2015-16 season.

Bettman did not seem to think a sale of the team would affect or potentially expedite the team's move to Brooklyn, however.

"I don't think so. I think their move to Brooklyn is regulated by their contractual commitment to Nassau County on Long Island," he said.

Barroway was previously interested in acquiring the New Jersey Devils and, according to multiple sources, viewed favorably by the league. Not even his bizarre connection to Wang -- he was the lead plaintiff against Wang's company Computer Associates in a class-action suit that originated back in 1998 -- has the league concerned. The NHL previously performed some preliminary vetting on the well-heeled former attorney and found no red flags.

One report had Syracuse Crunch owner Howard Dolgon as a possible member of a potential bid, but that could be troublesome considering Dolgon is the owner of an AHL franchise affiliate with a different NHL team, the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Asked hypothetically about this scenario, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told ESPNNewYork.com that it could be problematic.

"There could potentially be some issues with that," he said.

Just like Wang continues to listen to potential suitors, Bettman said the league is still receiving plenty of interest in potential expansion.

"We are, much like the Islanders' owner, we get lots of expressions of interest -- whether it's from Quebec City, Seattle, Las Vegas or Kansas City -- and we're listening, but we haven't enacted a formal process to begin considering expansion," he said. "That's not something we're intent on doing right now, but we are listening."

In attendance for Tuesday night's game between the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers, Bettman said he was encouraged by the initial feedback on the league's new playoff format. Instead of simply taking the top eight teams in each conference, as the league did previously, the NHL now takes the top three teams from each division and an additional two wild-card teams from each conference.

"The early returns, in terms of attendance, all the buildings are sold out. National TV ratings and I believe local TV ratings are up," Bettman said. "We set out to do something that we thought our fans would like, and the early returns are it's working the way we had hoped."

Bettman addressed a number of NHL issues in his news conference, including salary-cap projections for 2014-15 and the departure of league disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan, who took an executive position with the Toronto Maple Leafs before the playoffs began.

As for the salary cap, Bettman provided a ballpark figure for next season that is less than the approximately $71 million projected earlier this season.

Regarding Shanahan's departure, Bettman expressed confidence in the NHL Department of Player Safety even without the Hall of Famer. With Shanahan leaving for Toronto, Stephane Quintal has assumed the role on an interim basis. He is considered a possibility as a permanent replacement, Bettman said, if he is interested.

An April 23 story on ESPN.com incorrectly linked a potential New York Islanders owner with another man who would be involved with the team. The reference has been removed.

Katie Strang covers the NHL for ESPN.com. She is a graduate of Michigan State University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
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