Kukla's Korner

The Malik Report

Senators owner Eugene Melnyk gives his side of the…Oh, enough already!

Senators fans: I'm sorry my favorite team signed your captain, and I'm sorry that you've had to deal with the roller-coaster of Fedorov-divorce-style break-up comments this week. It's been painful to watch, hear and read from over 500 miles away.

But at this point, you'll have to excuse me for saying that: A) we promise to take good care of Alfredsson, and B) we're starting to believe that both your owner and general managers are drama queens who are kind of assholes. I'm starting to wonder whether certain members of your press corps are cut from the same cloth.

The latest round of spitting, spatting and grumbling and grousing consisted of a press conference + Bryan Murray immediately responding to Alfredsson's comments (nice job pre-preparing a "response" prior to the "statement," Bruce Garrioch), Bryan Murray deciding that he had  to get the last word in not once, but twice, and Don Brennan punctuating Thursday's navel-gazing with a "Detoilet" comment.

Friday, Melnyk insisted that Alfredsson's agent. J.P. Barry, lied to both his clients and the Senators twice--first while representing Dany Heatley, and then mis-representing Alfredsson (isn't that grounds for a libel suit in Canada?)--and shortly thereafter, the Ottawa Citizen's James Begnall offered a dispassionate and thorough report essentially detailing Melnyk's misfortunes in the pharmaceutical business and speculating as to how those issues, a boatload of arena debt and highly probable yearly operating losses were affecting the way Melnyk instructed Bryan Murray to run his team.

I can't vouch for Begnall's educated guesses regarding the hockey team, but his outlining of the decline in Melnyk's net worth due to his issues with Biovail are accurate. If I was Don Brennan, I'd also point out that Melnyk's new pharmaceutical ventures are both banking on drugs that treat inflammatory bowel diseases and drugs that aid in addressing female sexual dysfunction.

Why get that dig in? Because Brennan went running to Melnyk in the same manner that Garrioch did, allowing Mr. Melnyk to paint two "enemies" with the same brush:

Amid rumours that the team needed the league to help pay bills last season came a website story quoting a highly-placed league source that the Ottawa franchise has been put on a "watch list." The story was vehemently refuted by Melnyk.

"No chance," he said in an e-mail to the Sun. "It's all B.S. coming from a random useless blogger. All this stuff is nonsense. Kinda annoying as well ... doing just fine thank you very much!"

Earlier in the day, the website hockeybuzz.com reported that there has been concern from league about the Senators' "escalating debt and the lenders." The source said trouble has been brewing since early 2012, and now there's "a fear the organization will be unable to make interest payments at some point, capitalizing the interest", adding that the league has encouraged Melnyk to seek investors."

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly also said the story didn't hold water Friday night.

"Yes, it's all B.S.," Daly said in an e-mail to the Sun. "There is no 'watch list.' And there is no concern (about the Senators). And you can quote me."

Melnyk was levying his insult at Travis Yost, but the timing's...Convenient. I can't vouch for Yost's anonymous sources (is that a "thing" in Ottawa given the politics going on in the city? Does Spartacat, the Senators' mascot, have anonymous sources?), but the Citizen's Begnall quotes real-world stock prices and real-world details of debts, debtors and creditors before declaring that he believes the Senators have lost $94 million during Melnyk's tenure as the team's owner, and that the Senators have about $130 million in oustanding debts as well.

We're not done here, either, because Brennan dishes off the above comments before tossing off more Alfredsson-related snark as his main course (all before re-referring us to TSN's quips from Melnyk and claiming that the Senators are "waiting" on restricted free agent Jared Cowen's reply to a $28 million contract offer tabled by Bryan Murray):

Alfredsson's poorly orchestrated farewell news conference Thursday was cut short before all questions were answered, leaving many still trying to understand who was to blame for the divorce of the team and its greatest player ever.

The story happens to include an embed-only 3:20 clip of Garrioch and Brennan chit-chatting after Thursday's presser, with Brennan suggesting that Alfredsson's departure indicates that the Senators are in financial trouble.

Originally, Alfredsson said he signed with the Detroit Red Wings because he felt that with perhaps just one year left in his playing career, he wanted to go to a team with a better chance of winning the Cup. He retracted that statement Thursday, saying that his reason for moving on had to do with stalled negotiations.

Alfredsson uncharacteristically came across like an athlete trying to make a few more bucks, but in retrospect, the Senators would have offered him the same money Detroit will pay him if they had the chance.

Team president Cyril Leeder told the Sun as much the day after Alfredsson joined the Wings.

So what's the real reason Alfredsson left? For what amounts to $1 million?

I'm rolling the clock back a day to allow Mr. Brennan to expand upon those comments, as he did on Friday morning...

He acknowledged the move was all about the money.

Without repeating Alfredsson's chronology of how it all went down, the bottom line is he would have been handsomely rewarded had he stayed put. As well paid as he will be with the Red Wings? Maybe, or maybe a few hundred thousand shy of that. So a guy who has earned between $60-70 million from the Senators is going to a dump like Detoilet -- and if you have ever visited Motown's downtown, you can't object to that classification -- over a measly mil?

It's nice that he's taking the family on a "new adventure," but the Alfredssons aren't exactly on their way to Disney World. The boys are being torn from their friends and schools and hockey programs, and while their new house is sure to be in a ritzy neighbourhood, it's not like Hugo and Loui will be able to play road hockey outside Joe Louis Arena while dad is at practice. The sticks would be stolen out of their hands.

With his column concluding as follows...

Is Alfredsson, at age 40, worth $7 million a year? Of course not. As strictly a player, like he will be in Detroit, he's valued about right at $3.5 million plus bonuses. But for all he's done as a Senator, what he means to Ottawa and what he can still bring, $7 million is a bargain.

If Melnyk doesn't see that, or couldn't afford such an amount while acquiring Bobby Ryan, then we should all be worried for the Senators.

Maybe that's what Alfredsson thought, too. Maybe that's the real reason he left.

And what the hell, while we're at it, let's review Mr. Melnyk's comments to TSN:

"For anyone to even suggest the remote possibility that Bryan Murray is not fully honest in his clear recollection of events should be ashamed of themselves," Melnyk told TSN on Friday. "I point the finger squarely on JP Barry, the man who blessed us with the (Dany) Heatley mess."

Speaking to reporters in Ottawa on Thursday, Alfredsson said a lack of communication in contract negotiations with the Senators factored in for his choice to sign a one-year contract with the Red Wings and that his last contract had been structured under the assumption he would retire before the final year of the deal that paid $1 million. Alfredsson then said that Barry informed Murray that in late June that he wanted to play another season.

"I'm disappointed to hear that contract issues were something important to him that he didn't feel we were trying to accommodate," Murray said on the team website after the news conference. "I think in every shape and form we wanted this man back to be the captain of our hockey team and it didn't work out. Sometimes in negotiating all the facts aren't maybe presented to the player the right way, but we certainly feel bad that Daniel reacted the way he did today."

Murray added Alfredsson asked for a $7 million, one-year contract or $12 million, two year contract prior to the 2013 draft. He said the team countered with a one-year deal worth $4.5 million which Alfredsson declined and talks dwindled from there.

Murray also told The Ottawa Sun on Thursday he thought Barry may not have been giving him or Alfredsson all the details over the contract negotiations between both sides - a sentiment shared by Melnyk.

"If you want to play a blame game - that is where you should be looking," Melnyk told TSN on Friday. "I have a lot of respect for Daniel. I simply think he was not told the whole story or worse, was lied to. I won't be commenting on this again. We are busy and have a Stanley Cup to win."

Now while Garrioch was going from source to source on Thursday, he made sure to go to Murray, J.P. Barry and even Bill Daly once he'd figured out that Alfredsson stated that he didn't initially intend to play out the last year of his contract--and, to be fair, it should be noted that the Ottawa Citizen's Allen Panzeri spoke to both Murray and Barry to include their comments in a combined-source article, and the Citizen's James Gordon contacted Daily, too--but Barry decided to essentially re-state his comments to TSN, which were the same ones he delivered to Panzeri:

"Shooting the messenger is something I have never believed in nor will I ever," Barry explained to TSN on Thursday. "It's just not productive in our business to make negotiations personal."

"I decided not to respond in July when Bryan chose to criticize my role as an agent in this process. It was an emotional day. I get it."

"The fact is this was a negotiation concerning impending free agency. We made multiple offers and invited them to negotiate. They provided a number on the weekend prior to July 5 and said this is all they can do due to internal budget restrictions. It wasn't a market offer in our estimation. They wanted Daniel to take a below market deal again after he had done the same several times previously and we didn't feel that was appropriate."

Again, as noted on Friday evening, the Citizen's Gordon suggested that all sides should call a truce, but RedWingsFeed found that Sportsnet's Ottawa Senators correspondent, Ian Mendes, issued an observation which is most predictive of the course of future events in the Alfredsson-relations department:


So why have I gone through all of this bullshit so very thoroughly despite being a Red Wings blogger?

1. If I'm giving bandwidth to yet another blossoming of accusatory bluster, I may as well give you the context to explain what led to it;

2. There's something to be said for the fact that the Red Wings do not operate this way;

3. And put very bluntly, I do not want to continue wasting time, energy, effort or entries dealing with this topic again.

This whole mess has ventured far beyond the bounds of name-calling and vindictiveness to the land of stupidly spiteful acts of asshattery, and I don't plan on giving the latest "tit for tat" shit dedicated entries.

We are incredibly likely to continue to hear Murray and Melnyk re-state their story of events until and after Alfredsson returns to Ottawa on December 1st, and I really hate to say this, but this has really become like Todd Bertuzzi's legal issues--it's going to become several train cars' worth of heavy baggage that Alfredsson will have to carry, and that Wings fans, to some extent, will have to deal with coming up over and over again despite that whatever happened between Alfredsson and the Senators' GM and/or owner won't have much to do with how he plays on the ice as a Red Wing, or what kind of person he is off the ice during his stay in Metro Detroit.

It may be shit we've all got to deal with, but there's just no more purpose served by spending time, energy or effort trying to tend--or in the Ottawa media's case, relentlessly jab into--an open wound. As bad as I feel for Senators fans, I'm not a Senators fan, I'm a Wings fan and a Wings blogger, and I'm starting to feel downright ashamed because I've spent the past 72 hours gawking at the scene of a massive pile-up.

I know that many of you disagree with me on this front, but the tangling of money, perceived worth and massive breakdowns in communication does indeed remind me of the Sergei Fedorov divorce, and the nuclear fallout from that mess continues to make his relationship with the Wings a complicated and tenuous one at best.

This stuff's going to resonate for weeks, months and years, and just as Fedorov's desire to live like a "rock star" was simply not pertinent to his status as a hockey player until it became rather evident that whatever his off-ice activities involved, they were eating into his commitment to train, practice and prepare to play while giving all his attention to his primary responsibilities as a professional athlete...

Whatever Melnyk and Murray have to say simply don't matter unless Alfredsson chooses to bring his divorce from the Senators and/or the comments of his former team's owner or general manager up. It's not really anyone's business otherwise.

If he isn't already here, Alfredsson will find his way to Metro Detroit shortly, and he and his family will move into wherever they've decided that they're going to live while they stay here (and again, it sounds like we're talking about more than a one-year commitment), his kids will enroll in school and Alfredsson will start showing up at informal practices in Troy or at Joe Louis Arena.

Thankfully for Alfredsson, he can leave the train-wreck behind him and begin his tenure as a Red Wing on his own terms.

I think it's best for the rest of us to look away and be thankful that the Ilitch family and Ken Holland don't operate the way Melnyk and Murray do, because what's gone on over the past month-and-a-half has gone from understandably angry to just plain stupid.

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About The Malik Report

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.