December 12, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
OTTAWA -- There was a sense of disbelief in the nation's capital Friday as news broke that longtime Ottawa Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson, one of the most beloved athletes in the city's history, signed a one-year deal with the Detroit Red Wings.
Alfredsson's departure came as a huge shock, as just the day before, Senators general manager Bryan Murray told the media he assumed a deal would get done and was waiting to hear back from Alfredsson's agent, J.P. Barry.
In less than 24 hours, things took a dramatic turn.
Alfredsson called Murray Thursday night to tell him his intentions. Murray said he did his best to change Alfredsson's mind, but in the end it had little impact.
Murray said owner Eugene Melnyk had even given him permission to give Alfredsson whatever was needed to keep him in an Ottawa uniform.
"For me, it was a devastating conversation," Murray said of his talk with Alfredsson. "Bottom line is he wanted to try it (play for another team), and who could not agree with that decision if he feels it's the right one?"
In a conference call Alfredsson, 40, did his best to explain his actions and said he fully expects "resentment and anger from fans, and there should be."
He admitted his decision was purely selfish in terms of wanting to find the best opportunity to win a Stanley Cup. That's not to say it was easy; he called it a very tough decision to leave Ottawa after 17 seasons.
He admitted that less than a week ago, he couldn't have even begun to imagine such a career change, but as free agency approached, things began to change.
"It pretty much came down to a selfish decision, in terms that I had not won a Stanley Cup and that was a big priority for me," Alfredsson said. "It's a tough decision to make and it still hasn't really sunk in, but I feel I'm doing this for myself. I feel this is right for me."
Alfredsson holds the Senators' franchise records for goals (426), assists (682), and points (1,108) with 1,178 games played.
A decision on who will take over the captaincy is expected to take place during training camp, but the early front runner appears to be Jason Spezza.
While fans were still digesting news of Alfredsson's departure, the Senators softened the blow by acquiring star forward Bobby Ryan from Anaheim in exchange for forward Jakob Silfverberg, prospect Stefan Noesen and Ottawa's first-round pick in 2014.
The Senators also signed former Toronto Maple Leafs left-winger Clarke MacArthur to a two-year, $6.5 million contract.
While the acquisitions of Ryan and MacArthur are certainly a positive for the Senators, the moves did little to reduce the sting of Alfredsson leaving.
Murray said he began to suspect something was amiss after numerous calls to Alfredsson's agent Thursday went unreturned.
In a perfect world, Murray said he would have preferred to learn of Alfredsson's decision last week in order to have more time to work on other deals, but in the end, he said he hopes the Ryan and MacArthur acquisitions will help strengthen the team.
"I'd like to think that our team is really growing up here fast," Murray said. "I'd like to think that we're going to be very competitive come regular season again. I'd like to prove to Alfie and the rest that we're right there with them."
Ryan, who spent the last five seasons in Anaheim, had 11 goals and 30 points last season and is expected to play on the Senators top line alongside Spezza.
Ryan said he has no intention of coming into Ottawa and attempting to replace Alfredsson.
"I don't think Daniel Alfredsson, after what he's done after the last how many years, is ever going to be replaced."
Murray said he doesn't believe it came down to money for either side with Alfredsson, and that in the end it was just a player making a personal decision that he felt was ultimately in his best interest.
"I hope fans can understand this is something that happens," Murray said.
From teammates to fans, few could understand why Alfredsson would want to leave and admitted to being stunned as they learned the news.
"I'm shocked," said teammate Marc Methot, who played only one season with Alfredsson. "I think all of us are. I think all of us would be lying if we said we weren't."
-- The Canadian Press
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 6, 2013 C2