Published July 10, 2013
| Sports Network
Philadelphia, PA – The NHL's free agency period opened with a flurry of action on Friday, but after the initial buzz of activity went silent, there was only move still generating noise.
Daniel Alfredsson exuded class while representing the Ottawa Senators franchise for nearly two decades, but the captain's ultimate break from the club was the opposite of graceful.
The 40-year-old Swede's decision to sign a one-year deal with Detroit has sent shockwaves through Canada's capital city and the ramifications have only begun to unfurl.
In the aftermath of the breakup, it's been difficult to determine who exactly was at fault for what amounts to the end of an era in Ottawa. Alfredsson, a sixth-round pick by the Senators in 1994, seemed to be an Ottawa lifer, not unlike Joe Sakic was, and still is, with the Quebec/Colorado franchise.
According to Alfredsson, his decision to sign with the Red Wings for $5.5 million is because he's still chasing a Stanley Cup and believes Detroit has a better chance than the Sens to achieve that goal in 2013-14. The problem is, Alfredsson may be in the minority when it comes to that opinion.
The Red Wings and Senators have similar championship prospects next season, but the one difference is Detroit is built around veteran players like Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. Meanwhile, Ottawa is young, but with budding superstar defenseman Erik Karlsson -- already a Norris Trophy winner at 23 -- still coming into his own, the sky is the limit for the Senators.
The problem for Alfredsson is he can't afford to patiently wait for the Sens to take two steps forward and one step back, as young teams often do. Ottawa could experience a breakout season in 2013-14, but it could just as easily regress.
Whether or not Alfredsson picked the better team remains to be seen, but he isn't keeping his intentions a mystery. Alfredsson himself admitted his decision was a "selfish" one.
"I'm doing this for myself," Alfredsson added. "I think this is right for me."
Those types of comments make it difficult to believe the Sens had any chance of retaining Alfredsson's services. Still, many folks have opted to blame Ottawa owner Eugene Melnyk for low-balling Alfredsson with an initial offer of a one-year, $4 million contract.
However, Sens general manager Bryan Murray insists Melnyk was willing to sign Alfredsson no matter the cost.
"Whatever they come back with, get it done," Murray quoted Melnyk as saying.
The good news for Ottawa fans is Murray didn't sit back and pout when Alfredsson chose Detroit, but rather he put the finishing touches on a deal for four-time 30-goal scorer Bobby Ryan.
The Sens parted with prospects Jakob Silfverberg, Stefan Noesen and a first- round pick at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft to acquire Ryan from the Ducks. Ryan is a winger with the size and skill to vastly improve Ottawa's offense, which ranked 27th in the NHL last season. It was a bold move by Murray, who claims to have spoken with Alfredsson about the possibility of acquiring Ryan before he departed for the Motor City.
It appears what really drove Alfredsson away from Ottawa was a crisis of confidence in the Sens' leadership. He seems to have a deep belief this franchise can't get over the hump and win a championship.
Perhaps, he knows what he's talking about. After all, Alfredsson had been with the club longer than both Melnyk and Murray before he jumped ship. Then again, maybe Alfie went through too many playoff disappointments in Ottawa to see the team's current situation clearly. He could have lost faith in the Sens and sees Detroit, a franchise with four Stanley Cups since the mid-1990s, as a beacon of hope in his hunt for a championship.
Ultimately, the tension created by this situation is a good thing for the NHL. Thanks to realignment, the Red Wings and Senators will be in the same division in 2013-14 and each club will have a lot to say about whether the other one makes the playoffs or not.
Can you imagine the atmosphere when Alfie returns to Ottawa dressed as the enemy for the first time? It should be interesting to say the least. Count Alfie among those who think his reception in Ottawa will be less than cordial.
"I expect there will be resentment and anger from fans, as I think there definitely should be," Alfredsson said.
The day will come when Ottawa can open up and love Alfredsson again. Still, even he knows that day won't arrive while he's wearing the "winged wheel" across his chest.