Elliotte Friedman on Daniel Alfredsson's Departure from the Senators

by Bonk's Mullet

Trying something new here because I think the interview the Team1200 just did with Elliotte Friedman is worth commenting on. Shamelessly stealing this format from the6thSens.com, but I hate those guys anyway. Here's a link to the full interview. My thoughts are in bold.

Team 1200: We have heard a million different stories. Do you think the truth will ever come out as to why Daniel Alfredsson is not now and presumably will not be a playing Ottawa Senator any longer? 
Elliotte Friedman: You know, I do. I think that in a lot of ways, Alfredsson and Murray were pretty honest about it when they spoke about it the day it happened. I don't think there's a lot of lying going on here. I think you have to read between the lines...I wonder if there was a little bit of mistrust between - not Alfredsson, but Melnyk and JP Barry about the whole Dany Heatley thing. 
The plot thickens faster than Dustin Byfuglien in the off season.
I wrote that whole big blog about how when the first request was made by Alfredsson, the Senators kind of discounted it and it kind of muddied the waters, and I do believe that's true. But after I wrote that blog, I got a call from somebody and they said to me, "You're on the right track, but there's one thing you left out." And I said, "okay what's that?" And they said, "I don't know if the relationship between Melnyk and Barry (Alfredsson's agent) ever got better after the whole Dany Heatley thing," and they thought that that kind of played a role in what happened. And I can't speak to that for sure, but it wouldn't surprise me because I know Ottawa, especially Eugene, took the whole Heatley thing very personally. 
"I'm personally not bitter about the Dany Heatley thing at all," says Bonk's Mullet, as he removes pins from his Heatley voodoo doll, and replaces them through the heart of his brand new Alfie doll.
So I think that might have started at the beginning and then when Alfredsson's initial request was kind of taken to the side and Alfredsson got a little upset, I just think the ball started rolling down a hill and things got out of control.  
Marking the first time in history anyone has every described Ottawa as "out of control."
And it's funny, we had Mike Babcock last night on the show I do in Toronto, Primetime, and he said that when he and Ken Holland got on the phone with Alfredsson, he got on the phone thinking, "we're going to have to do a recruiting job" and he said quickly into the call he realized that Alfredsson had already made the decision he was coming there.
This is the same reaction Nicolas Cage has to every job offer. Jokes aside, this is pretty telling. I will never understand why Detroit was chosen over Boston. It has to be the Swedish factor.
And I think that's just what happened. I think that at the beginning, Alfredsson was unhappy with how his offer was received and he kind of sat there and said "okay, I'm going to see what else is out there" and I don't think it's anything more nefarious than that. 
Team 1200: Well let's talk about that offer, in specifics. You wrote that it's 2 years at $12 million dollars. 
*spits out coffee*
EF: Nobody has confirmed that, but I believe that. 
Team: And that might alter fans' perception for how things went down. Do you think that's a reasonable number for a guy like Daniel Alfredsson to go after 2 years $12 million? 
EF: Look. I think this: If the Ottawa Senators didn't believe that wasn't a reasonable number, the response had to be something like...Bryan Murray used the words publicly "that's not fair." I don't know how it was presented to Alfredsson, I don't know how it worked, and I don't think Bryan Murray, in any way shape or form was trying to insult Daniel Alfredsson. I'm sure that Murray has probably used that word, in 35 years of negotiating contracts, has probably used that exact phrase 10 thousand times. 
But sometimes the way you answer the question, or even ask the question - your tone and your language - the way it's conveyed can be as damaging as anything else. You guys know Alfredsson as much as anybody; he's always taken below market in Ottawa. 
To be fair, for a long period of time I.O.U.s were the going rate in Ottawa.
I remember when he timed his extension around the 2004 lockout, the player's association was angry with him for taking less money, because the player's association believes you should always raise the bar... And you know I remember Alfredsson getting asked about it and he said "you know what, too bad I'm happy, and that's it. I like it here in Ottawa like this."
Sounds like Alfie learned his negotiation tactics from his children.
And I just think that when you have a guy like that who's always taken less money and he's your franchise cornerstone, the response has got to be more along the lines of "I don't know if we can do that. Is there another way we can work this that'll make you happy?"
Rumour has it the Senators offered Alfredsson a romantic evening with Tim Murray.
How could Alfie resist?
I just think Alfredsson was put off by that. In this day in age, it's so different from 20 or 30 years ago when owners just said "hey, this is what you're gonna get. And you're gonna have to live with it." and the players didn't have a lot of leverage. Everybody is different now. You have to be a lot more sensitive to the way people think and feel. When you're dealing with a a guy like that who has done so much for your team and your community, there had to be a different response to that.

My Thoughts

And there you have it. Friedman thinks Alfie's feelings were hurt. Friedman is a man with many connections, and it's likely that that's what Alfie himself may say one day, but I have trouble believing that's anything more than an excuse from the Alfredsson camp. If Alfredsson were truly interested in returning to Ottawa, would he have been so fickle as to let one conversation after 17 years ruin his relationship with the club?

The reason Alfie left is probably a lot simpler than that. Either (A) Alfie wanted more money than the team could offer/afford or (B) Alfie wants to win before he retires. And it's likely a bit of both. Murray said Alfie knew about the Bobby Ryan deal, but Alfie was also aware of the team's infamous $50 million dollar internal budget. If the Sens were to acquire Ryan and retain their RFAs, there would have been only $3 million left on the table for Alfie. Even if he were willing to accept lower than market value, it's unlikely that Bobby Ryan alone puts the team in cup contention. Find me a team that's won the cup in recent years without spending near the cap, and I'll find you a unicorn.
Visual approximation of the aforementioned unicorn finding. (Courtesy of @BringBackLee)

If Alfie doesn't return to the city of Ottawa post-retirement, only then do we have reason to believe Alfie actually felt wronged by the team, but until then, I'm going to assume this was a business decision.

Being "offended" by the offer seems like an out clause to seek greener pastures. Alfie himself said it was a selfish decision, and if there's anything we've learned about Alfie interviews in the past, it's that he's painfully honest. Would Alfie change his entire philosophy simply because of one bad conversation?

Probably not.

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