OTTAWA -- Fans hoping to get a clearer picture of why Daniel Alfredsson left the Ottawa Senators for the Detroit Red Wings may never get the answers they're looking for, but it appears money played a major role in the decision.
Speaking to reporters in Ottawa on Thursday, Alfredsson admitted contract negotiations -- or lack thereof -- were a big factor in his choice to sign with the Red Wings as free agent on July 5 rather than remain with the only NHL team he's ever played for.
'I was also delighted by their enthusiasm about me and how they saw me fitting into their plans and their team'
The 40-year-old former Ottawa captain explained his last contract had been structured under the assumption he would retire before the final year of the deal, which was for US$1 million.
"When I did my last contract for four years ending in the (2012-13) season, I was asked to help the team manage the salary cap by adding on an extra year to my contract. I agreed. Each side fully expected I would retire and not play the 2012-13 season," Alfredsson said during a news conference at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. "However, after the 2012 season, I told the Sens I wanted to play another season. I also asked to look at a possible extension for this upcoming season at a fair amount to balance out the two years for both of us. They agreed.
"Sadly, the contract negotiations went nowhere, but I played out the season as I had promised and I believe this past season was, in my view, a very special one."
Despite a rash of injuries, the Senators advanced to the second round of the playoffs where they were eventually eliminated by the Pittsburgh Penguins in five games. Alfredsson led the team in playoff scoring with four goals and 10 points, but once again talk of impending retirement surfaced.
Alfredsson told Senators general manager Bryan Murray at the end of the season he wanted to take a few weeks to reflect on his future. A few days prior to the NHL draft, Alfredsson's agent J.P. Barry informed Murray that Alfredsson was indeed interested in playing another season.
"In late June this year, I decided I had it in me to play at least one more season," he explained. "I told management I was willing to return and I reminded them of our agreement from the year before and to my disappointment the negotiations again quickly stalled."
Within days, a number of teams began contacting Alfredsson, who felt the Red Wings were a good fit. He had friends on the roster and the club was in need of a right-handed shooter. Initial discussions with the Red Wings left Alfredsson pondering a whole new future.
"I was also delighted by their enthusiasm about me and how they saw me fitting into their plans and their team," he said. "So that call opened my eyes to a possibility I would never have thought of -- to play another year, or maybe even two, with another great team."
Over the course of 17 years with the Senators, Alfredsson became the face of the franchise and a fan favourite. News of his signing with Detroit left fans devastated, and in his customary humble attitude, Alfredsson admitted he might never have truly grasped how beloved he was.
"Sometimes I don't think I understand myself at times how people are attached to me," he said. "I understand I've had a big impact on the community and I'm very proud of that, but when I made this decision it was for me to challenge myself as a hockey player and also to try a new adventure with the family. It's not easy, but I'm looking forward to this new chapter and I'm hoping it will be a lot of fun."
Alfredsson, who has been heavily involved with The Royal, admitted he would continue to help bring greater awareness to mental health while playing with the Red Wings and will remain involved with the Ottawa facility.
-- The Canadian Press