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The Malik Report

On shifting blame and the Senators and Red Wings’ ‘odds’

The "Why did Daniel Alfredsson leave Ottawa for Detroit?" blame game keeps shifting. First, we were told that Alfredsson was presented with a "blank check" but chose to leave anyway. Then, Senators owner Eugene Melnyk repeatedly suggested that the team chose to acquire Bobby Ryan over retaining Alfredsson's services because the team could not accommodate both players' salaries (at least with Alfredsson not taking a hometown discount).

This afternoon, via RedWingsFeed, Senators GM Bryan Murray claimed to NHL.com's Apron Basu that the Senators could have afforded both players if they really wanted to do so--seemingly shifting blame back onto Alfredsson's shoulders ahead of his press conference with the Ottawa media on Thursday:

"I think Eugene's being a little hard on himself in that scenario," Murray told NHL.com. "We had talked about a way of doing Alfie's contract and still making the trade for Bobby Ryan, both financially and in terms of player return for [the Anaheim Ducks]."

On July 5, when Alfredsson left the Senators to sign with the Detroit Red Wings, now an Atlantic Division rival of Ottawa's, Murray said he was given a blank check by Melnyk to re-sign the captain. However, Melnyk told the Citizen the blank check would have squashed the possibility of adding Ryan via a trade with the Ducks because the Senators would be forced to exceed their internal budget to accommodate both moves.

"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 told the Citizen. "And at the end, when I said blank check, that would have meant we would not have gotten the [Bobby Ryan-type player]. Couldn't afford it. Just couldn't do it."

Murray explained that though it would have been difficult to manage signing Alfredsson and trading for Ryan, there were, in fact, solutions that were discussed that would allow the Senators to complete each transaction.

"We do have an in-house budget that we're trying to stay very close to, so I think [Melnyk] was just a little harder on himself in that regard in terms of what we could do and couldn't do," Murray said. "I'm not saying if Alfie stayed that we would have absolutely gone ahead and made the Bobby Ryan trade, but we had certainly talked about that scenario happening as well."

...

Murray said he feels that when the plan to build through drafting and development reaches maturity, the Senators will be ready to spend in order to build a Stanley Cup contender again.

"I think we're in the process of being fairly successful at this point with young people, but I do think there's going to be a time where Eugene will say, 'We're where we should be, let's get above that now and here's how we do it,'" Murray said. "Then there might be an opportunity to trade for a higher-profile guy or a more-expensive guy, whatever the case may be."

And for what it's worth, Paul passed along a story from the Ottawa Citizen's James Gordon which suggests that, at least from a sports betting standpoint, the fact that the Senators added Clarke MacArthur and Bobby Ryan doesn't give them a leg up on the Wings by any stretch of the imagination:

For Adam Burns, sportsbook manager at online betting firm Bodog, there’s no ambiguity.

“If you look at the divisions in our projections, in that Atlantic Division, we have Boston ranked one, Detroit ranked two and then Ottawa will sort of be fighting with Toronto and Montreal, I figure, for third and maybe that wild card spot,” Burns said in an interview Tuesday. “But when you look at it from an odds perspective, there’s no doubt Detroit has a better chance than Ottawa.”

Burns runs a team of about 25 oddsmakers who use mathematics to set the approximate probability of certain outcomes. For example, the Red Wings are currently sitting at 16/1 odds of winning the Stanley Cup, while the Senators are way back at 33/1.

There’s a catch, however. Sportsbooks also have to account for the amount of money fans will bet on each team and adjust their lines. If too many people bet on a big underdog that somehow manages to climb above its station in the league, the results are disastrous. Burns says the last time his book really got soaked was the 2012 Super Bowl, when the New York Giants set a new record as the worst regular season team (9-7 record) ever to win the big game. “Some things got broken in the office” after that one.

“There’s a big process that goes into it, but we’re trying to rank all the teams, we’re looking at our projections, then we’re trying to put odds to those,” he says.

Then the books post an early line — Bodog had theirs out the day after the Stanley Cup final in the spring — and get a read on the market.

“Then we’ll look at where money comes in, we’ll look at our risk on each team and then trade and move the numbers a little bit.”

This has already happened with both teams in question. Burns says the Red Wings are the third-most heavily bet team in the National Hockey League to win the Cup at the moment, trailing only the finalists from this spring (the champion Chicago Blackhawks and the Boston Bruins). Thus, their line moved to 16/1 from 18/1.

The Senators, Burns says, are traditionally one of the smallest bet teams in the league. Their line opened at 28/1, but has since drifted to 33/1 due to a lack of action.

And Gordon continues, of course, while the man who continues to block me on Twitter despite repeated apologies and entreaties asking him to remove the block offered the following:

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Comments

Bugsy's avatar

In danger of prolonging the Alfredsson issue (which is only 2nd to the new Wings arena discussion in just making me feel weary), the man’s last contract was 4 year starting in 2009-10 , at $7 M the first 2 years, then $4.5 M then 1M, for a $4.875 M cap hit. I realize that the Wings maybe paid more to finish the deal off ($3.5M + $2M bonus), but I find it hard to believe still that the franchise icon couldn’t have received a reasonable deal, to show appreciation for the years (if not the way the Wings did it, at least some other way to spread the cost). I’m not sure if Alfredssson’s contract was below market value at the time in 2009, albeit for a 36 y/o player on the decline. On the other hand, he still had about the same # of points as Zetterberg from 2007-08 to 2009-10 during those three seasons (obviously not afterwards).

Sorry, so much for not prolonging the topic.

Posted by Bugsy on 08/13/13 at 11:08 PM ET

Bradley97's avatar

I have to echo J.J. from Kansas. If you want to find out what the story is with Alfredsson, Melnyk, and the Sens then I suggest reading Travis Yost’s Gene Melnyk Money series which starts in his July Archive and continues into August with a total of eight articles so far. I also suggest reading Alfredsson Timeline is Broken and Elephant in the Room. Fascinating stuff.

Posted by Bradley97 on 08/14/13 at 12:42 AM ET

OlderThanChelios's avatar

Murray said he feels that when the plan to build through drafting and development reaches maturity, the Senators will be ready to spend in order to build a Stanley Cup contender again.

So when the Sens decided that Alfie’s rather reasonable request for $5.5M for next year didn’t fit into that scenario, they quit negotiating. Now that he’s signed with the Wings for that much, the Ottawa media is all confused about why he would leave.

The bottom line is this, plain and simple. Melnyk is not Mr. I. He judiciously guards every penny and won’t extend himself a penny beyond that point. As he said, “If we want to even spend a few extra million dollars, that just goes right out of my pocket. It’s a business, people have to understand. This is not philanthropy. I love the team, but there’s only so much you can bear.

So, he couldn’t “bear” Alfie’s $5.5M salary. And because of that, Alfie walked. That is not Alfie’s fault. It’s clearly the fault of an owner who isn’t willing to put his money where his mouth is.

Too bad, Eugene, because next spring someone in the Ottawa media is going to use the phrase “penny wise and pound foolish” to describe what you did. And you’ll deserve evey bit of criticism you get because of it.

Posted by OlderThanChelios from Grand Rapids, MI on 08/14/13 at 01:07 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

The irony about Eugene Melnyk is that he’s a) still worth almost a billion dollars; b) still in the pharmaceutical business, and actually doing quite well with Trimel Phramaceuticals and c) choosing to keep Senators ticket prices cheaply of his own accord. He also still lives in Barbados so that he doesn’t have to deal with high Canadian taxes on his own earnings.

Yes, there’s still a substantial amount of rink debt on the ledger, but he’s not exactly “swimming in debt.” He’s the one who went from, “I’ll spend to the cap” to, “We’re a budget team,” and whatever happened between him, Murray and Alfredsson will likely remain unknown.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 08/14/13 at 03:28 AM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.