This is the toughest thing I have ever written on this blog. It was thought unthinkable when Daniel Alfredsson announced last week that is returning for at least one more season. That one season will not be with the Ottawa Senators. The club's captain, and all-time leader in goals, assists, points in both the regular season and the playoffs is leaving. Not to retire. But to play with the Detroit Red Wings.
As per @DarrenDreger, Wings deal has been agreed upon with Alfredsson, one year, $5.5 M (including $2 M in bonuses)— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) July 5, 2013
Yesterday, Bryan Murray assumed that the Senators would sign the club's captain like everyone else. But he assumed incorrectly. Despite Murray's insistence that Alfredsson can name his price, it wasn't enough. That makes sense because Alfredsson leaving wasn't about the money. He didn't sign for a ludicrously high amount of money. Coming back at age 40, he likely wanted the club to be able to improve the team and because of Eugene Melnyk's inability or reluctance to improve the team, the general manager was unable to do so.
So now he is gone. He will play in our division. We might see him in the playoffs with the new format. He was never my favourite player, that was Martin Havlat, then Jason Spezza and then Erik Karlsson. But he was always there, someone you could count on always being there for the Ottawa Senators. Now we can no longer do that.
The club lost Sergei Gonchar to free agency and didn't appear to be replacing him on defence at all. This was a defence that ranked in the bottom ten in the NHL in shots allowed for each of the past two seasons and this is despite including the world's best defenceman.
The Senators weren't willing to improve their team to make it worthwhile for Alfredsson. He is 40 years old and has never won a Stanley Cup. He likely wouldn't win one no matter what the Senators did this offseason. But he at least wanted the club to try. At least a little. They didn't. That is very telling to me to what Alfie thinks of the club's immediate future.
In a press conference, Alfredsson said he "made a very difficult decision." He said he didn't seem himself making a change as recently as a week ago, but as he got closer to free agency, the dream of winning a Stanley Cup started to be a major motivator, and talking to other teams helped fuel that. He further explained:
"It pretty much came down to a selfish decision in terms of I have not won a Stanley Cup, a big priority for me."
He feels that Ottawa is getting closer and is going in the right direction, but he doesn't have the time left in his career to wait. Ian Mendes asked if the final games against Pittsburgh influenced his feelings about Ottawa's status, but he said that had nothing to do with it, and he didn't start considering playing anywhere else until last week.
He also stated that if this is his last season(!) he did not want to push Murray or Melnyk to deviate from their plan to make a push just for him. He also wanted a different challenge from being a mentor.
He will move his whole family to Detroit. He feels that it would be too difficult to be away from them for a year.
Regarding Detroit being a better Cup contender:
He talked with a few teams, but he likes the way Detroit plays hockey. (Ironic, considering that's the brand of hockey Paul MacLean brought to Ottawa.) He knows a few guys from before, and the culture of the team appeals to him. He likes the sound of playing with Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk because they play a two-way game similar to him.
Regarding his legacy:
He's not worried about it. He expects there will be fan resentment and anger and admits there should be. He says he knows what he's done in Ottawa and he's given it all he has every year. He has too many people to thank and probably doesn't deserve the praise. This decision is about him, and he desire to pursue a Stanley Cup. He plans to continue his charity work in Ottawa. He feels he's invested a lot in Ottawa the city and they've invested a lot in him as well. He characterized this as a "sports decision" only.