Daniel Alfredsson returned to Ottawa Thursday to wish his fans and the city he called home for 18 years farewell. He also opened up about the end of his tenure with the Senators and contentious negotiations during a press conference held at Ottawa's Royal Mental Health Hospital, with which he was and will remain actively involved.
The former Senators captain went into detail on how talks broke down, going back to when he agreed to his last contract with Ottawa.
"When I did my last contract I was asked to help the team manage the cap by taking a two-year contract," Alfredsson said.
In that last contract with the Senators, Alfredsson's deal was front-loaded, with the former captain earning $7 million for the first two seasons and just $1 million in the final year, to make it a more cap-friendly hit of $4.875 million a year. This could also be construed as circumventing the salary cap, essentially, a practice the NHL has since cracked down on.
The Swedish forward also suggested that there was a verbal agreement in place that he would be extended after playing that last year at a discounted rate.
Alfredsson said he attempted to negotiate an extension with the team throughout the season as well.
“Sadly, the contract negotiations went nowhere,” he said.
When the two sides met to negotiate a new deal after Alfredsson decided he wanted to keep playing this offseason, whatever verbal agreement may have existed was never part of the new negotiations.
“In late June this year I decided I had it in me to play one more season. I told management I was prepared to return, and reminded them of our agreement from the year before,” he said. “To my disappointment, negotiations quickly stalled.”
It was soon after that teams started contacting Alfredsson, including the Detroit Red Wings, with whom he signed a one-year $5.5 million deal as an unrestricted free agent.
So this doesn't look great for the Senators, as based on Alfredsson's comments he made efforts to stay with the team, even helping out by taking a potentially cap-circumventing deal in his last contract. While verbal agreements should never be considered a sure thing, especially in professional sports, allegedly breaking one with the face of the franchise and long-time captain certainly isn't going to go over well with the Ottawa faithful.
There's been a lot of back-and-forth in the wake of Alfredsson's shocking departure from the Senators.
Most recently, Senators owner Eugene Melnyk talked to the Ottawa Citizen Saturday about the end of the Alfredsson Era. Melnyk explained that the team would not have been able to nab a player like Bobby Ryan, who the Senators acquired in a trade with the Anaheim Ducks had they agreed to Alfredsson's terms this offseason.
"To come up with the kind of money they were talking about and being fiscally responsible and ensuring the ongoing success of the organization, we knew we needed to add a Bobby Ryan-type player," Melnyk explained. "And at the end, when I said blank cheque, that would have meant we would not have gotten the (Bobby Ryan-type player). Couldn't afford it. Just couldn't do it."
Melnyk also took a shot at Alfredsson's comments that he had a better chance to win a Stanley Cup with the Red Wings – comments Alfredsson said Thursday he wishes he could take back.
“If he's true to his word that he thinks, and I believe he is, that he thinks he can win a Stanley Cup — or somebody convinced him he can win a Stanley Cup — more likely in Detroit than in Ottawa, it's his decision.
“I think he's wrong, I'll tell you that, that's where we part ways — I disagree — ‘cause I think we're a better team, but if he believes it and he's committed to it, then it was his prerogative,” Melnyk continued. “All we could do is wish him all the best. We look forward to Detroit finishing right behind us and him having a good year.”
It's an unfortunately messy end to a brilliant career in Ottawa for Alfredsson and this latest press conference didn't seem to bring closure to this increasingly dramatic saga.