The Malik Report
by George Malik on 08/15/13 at 11:01 AM ET
Updated 15x at 5:33 PM: Here's a slate of Tweet summations and articles regarding new Red Wings forward Daniel Alfredsson's "goodbye" presser at Ottawa's The Royal hospital, where Alfredsson has a significant charitable legacy as a member of the Ottawa Senators. I'll update this entry with more news stories and videos as they become available:
The Ottawa Sun's Don Brennan noted the following: Big hair? Yes, big hair:
The Ottawa Sun's Chris Stevenson more or less summed things up...
While Bruce Garrioch went for blow-by-blow coverage:
“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 a extra year to my contract. I agreed. Each side fully expected I would retire and not play the 2012-13 season,” he said in the gymnasium 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 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, in my view, was a very special one.”
Alfredsson went on to describe how initial talks this summer didn’t go well, which opened the door for the Detroit Red Wings to make a pitch. After discussing it with wife Bibi, who was on hand Thursday, and their four children, they decided it was an “adventure” they wanted to pursue.
“In late June this year, I decided I had it in me to play one more season,” he explained. “I told management I was willing to return and I reminded them of our agreement from the year before.”
The negotiations “quickly stalled,” he said, and a few days later, the Detroit Red Wings came calling.
Alfredsson said he had friends who played in the motor city and knew the team well — including its need for a right-handed shot.
“I was also delighted by their enthusiasm and by their belief in how they saw me fitting into their plans. So that call opened my eyes to a possibility I had never thought of — to play another year, maybe even two, with another great team."
Quickie update: the CBC's Doug Harrison also penned a summary:
“I think the easiest thing for me would be just to stay in Ottawa, enjoy my last year there and retire an Ottawa Senator,” he told reporters at the time. “It probably would’ve been a great ending as well, but it’s the ultimate prize and I’m a competitive person.”
Alfredsson won an Olympic gold medal with Sweden in 2006 but has never hoisted the “ultimate prize,” the Stanley Cup.
He made his NHL debut with the Senators in the 1995-96 campaign and has scored 426 goals and 682 assists for 1,108 points in 1,178 regular-season games. Alfredsson also has shone in the playoffs with 51 goals and 100 points in 121 contests.
In last year’s lockout-shortened season, he had 10 goals and 26 points in 47 games.
And I'm going to have to shrug my shoulders at this suggestion from Sports Illustrated's Allan Muir:
While describing the process that led to his decision to leave the Senators for the Detroit Red Wings as a free agent this summer, Alfredsson appears to have revealed that he and his former team conspired to circumvent the salary cap.
“When I did my last contract, ending in the 2012 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.”
His salary last season was just $1 million after three years of $7 million, $7 million and $4 million. His cap hit over the life of the deal was $4.875 million, but without the effect of that cheapie fourth season, it would have been $6 million.
That difference wouldn’t have put the Senators over the cap in any of those first three seasons, but as the New Jersey Devils can attest, attempts at circumvention aren’t taken lightly by the league, especially when it comes to deals that include wink-wink retirement years at the end. In fact, the current CBA includes specific language crafted to prevent exactly this sort of calculated transgression from occurring.
Update: Here's TSN's quick take:
Alfredsson, who was at Ottawa's Royal Health Centre on Thursday to help promote his charitable focus on mental health awareness, also explained his reasons for choosing to sign with the Detroit Red Wings.
"To Ottawa, to the always loyal Sens fans, to the Sens organization - thank you from the bottom of our hearts," said Alfredsson, who was welcomed into the room with cheers from attending fans.
"When I did my last contract I was asked to help the team manage the cap by taking a two-year contract," he explained, adding that he wanted to renegotiate with the team this summer. "Sadly, contract negotiations went nowhere."
Alfredsson, 40, surprised many on July 5 when he signed a one-year, $5.5 million contract with the Detroit Red Wings. The Senators, unable to come to terms with their longest-serving player, made a blockbuster deal just hours later acquiring winger Bobby Ryan from the Anaheim Ducks.
"I respected Bryan for everything he's done for this team as a coach and GM," said Alfredsson. "I understand it was hard for them to make it work under my terms."
Update #2: Here's the Sporting News's Sean Gentile's take:
We'll leave the emotional aspect of Daniel Alfredsson's departure from Ottawa to people who live there. The logistical twists and turns -- the player said this, the owner said that, the GM said this and that -- are hilarious enough.
The more relevant question to come out of Alfredsson's "Goodbye, everyone" press conference on Thursday: Did he and the team seriously have an agreement that he'd retire before his last contract was up, then structure said contract in a way that added an effectively fake, cap-hit-crushing year on to the back end of the deal? Because he says that happened. And that is not allowed.
"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 a extra year to my contract. I agreed. Each side fully expected I would retire and not play the 2012-13 season," he said at an Ottawa gymnasium on Thursday. That contract lasted from 2009-13 and paid him $7 million in the first two seasons, $4.5 million in the third and $1 million in the fourth.
At some point, though, Alfredsson decided not to retire. In 2012, when it came time to negotiate a new contract, he said, he reminded them of the agreement and wanted recompense. It wasn't coming, Alfredsson said, so talks derailed, and he eventually signed a one-year, $5.5 million contract with the Detroit Red Wings on the first day of NHL free agency.
Again -- that first part is not (and was not) allowed. Remember "cap circumvention"? That sounds pretty cap circumventory. The good news for the Senators, though, is that most teams were structuring deals that way back then; the league only stepped in when Ilya Kovalchuk and the New Jersey Devils took it to the extreme. The whole exercise has an undefinable quality to it, largely because there was no actual definition of cap circumvention in the previous CBA. Still, adding a fake year solely to drive down a cap hit is cut-and-dry -- at least if you're going to bother attempting to retroactively define the term and punish teams for it.
Update #2.25: Late, but honest:
Update #7: Bruce Garrioch made sure to give the Senators the last word vi GM Bryan Murray taking issue with Alfredsson's comments:
Murray, who felt Alfredsson “threw him under the bus during his news conference, confirmed Alfredsson asked the Senators for a one-year deal at $7 million and a two-year deal at $12 million. The club offered one year at $4.5 million.
“I can say this: I’m disappointed,” said Murray. “It seems Alfie isn’t totally informed of what went on. That had to do with J.P. (Barry) didn’t tell me the truth during the week. He kept saying ‘I can’t get in touch with Alfie. I will get back to you with a number.’ He never got back to me. I never heard back from him after the phone call on Tuesday (before free agency). Alfie called me himself on Thursday night to tell me that he was leaving. I said to J.P. during the earlier conversations I can’t pay you $7 million. That’s what they asked for for the year. I offered $4.5 million. I said, ‘Both of us hopefully are flexible and we will talk.’ (Barry) said he would get back to me. I just took for granted that would happen and it never happened. I never heard back. I have not J.P. since the $7 milliion (demand in New York) Saturday meeting we had. It was $12 million for two years and $7 million for one. That’s disappointing.”....
Murray said he took Alfredsson’s departure at face value.
“Two years ago we promised to extend his contract? When we did the contract originally I don’t know any reason why I have to tell anything other than the truth. I’m 70-years-old you think I care what happens?,” said Murray. “He said we asked for another year to make it cap friendly? He asked for a four year deal with up front money. It so happened there was the fourth year at $1 million. Both of us talked and he certainly didn’t anticipate playing and J.P. didn’t anticipate him playing so I said, ‘That’s fine.’
“He played. When we talked in Las Vegas (last summer) it was about adding a year and $8 million in the second year to make it up to make it a $4.5 million year for two years. I talked to Eugene and we said we couldn’t do that.”
Murray said one year at $7 million for a 40-year-old Alfredsson wasn’t reasonable.
“(Barry) sent a message ‘Alfie’s concerned that if he signs a contract you won’t be able to add anything to the team.’ In my meeting with Alfie I told him ‘if we can get you signed, we are trying to trade for Bobby Ryan,’” said Murray.
Update #8: Here's NHL.com's story:
Speaking at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre, where he helped raise awareness of mental health issues for years, Alfredsson -- accompanied by his wife Bibi -- gave a heartfelt farewell to the Ottawa community.
"To Ottawa, to the always loyal Sens fans, to the Sens organization, thank you from the bottom of our hearts," Alfredsson said in a prepared statement.
However, later in that same statement Alfredsson, 40, explained his version of events leading up to his decision to leave the Senators as a free agent and sign with the Detroit Red Wings in July. He signed a one-year deal worth $5.5 million.
"When I did my last contract for four years ending in the (2012-13) season, I was asked to help the team manage the salary cap by adding on an extra year to my contract," he said in the opening statement. "I agreed. Each side fully expected I would retire and not play the 2012-13 season."
When Alfredsson came to the decision last summer to play last season, he says he expressed an interest in signing a contract extension with the Senators that would make up for the lower salary he would be playing under in 2012-13, but that the “contract negotiations went nowhere.”
"But I played out the season as I had promised and I believe this past season, in my view, was a very special one," Alfredsson said, referencing the team's run to the Stanley Cup Playoffs before a second-round ouster by the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Again this summer, when he decided he would play another season, Alfredsson said the negotiations were “stalled” with the Senators when the unrestricted free agency negotiating window opened. Suddenly, he said, he was fielding calls from several other teams, one of which was the Red Wings, where he had many friends playing.
Update #9: Garrioch with another "for *#$%@&'s sake" moment:
Daniel Alfredsson was kept up to date every step of the way. That's the word from Alfredsson's Kelowna-based agent J.P. Barry after GM Bryan Murray told the Sun he isn't sure the Senators' former captain was getting the full story during his negotiations for a new contract last month. Barry said in an e-mail to the Sun Thursday he tried several times to get a deal done.
"The fact is this was a negotiation concerning impending free agency," Barry said. "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. Daniel and I spoke every day during the process at length. Essentially, the Senators wanted us to present lower offers to them and that is not how the process works."
Barry said the Senators shouldn't have relied on him to come back with a number. The club should have stated what they felt they could do.
"When a player has impending free agency and the club wants to keep that player, they need to present their best offer and not ask the player to negotiate against himself," said Barry. "The interview window opened after we couldn't bridge the gap over the weekend and a new opportunity and a new challenge came along. By that time, it was simply too late."
Update #10: Oh hey, James Gordon spoke to Bill Daly, and he offered the circumvention shmircunvention spiel:
The National Hockey League doesn’t intend to investigate whether or not the Ottawa Senators purposely circumvented the salary cap with Daniel Alfredsson’s previous contract, deputy commissioner Bill Daly told the Citizen Thursday afternoon.
“I would say that if negotiations went down precisely as Daniel described (them), that would be a concern,” Daly wrote in an email. “We haven’t independently verified that, and at this point we don’t intend to.”
The collective bargaining agreement between the NHL and the players’ union contains severe penalties if either a team or player are found to have made side arrangements that would circumvent the salary cap.
Article 26.2 of the CBA states that “A Club and a Player, may not, at any time, enter into undisclosed agreements of any kind, express or implied, oral or written, or promises, undertakings, representations, commitments, inducements, assurances of intent, or understandings of any kind involving consideration of any kind to be paid, furnished or made available or guaranteed to the Player, or Player Actor, but the Club or Club Actor either prior to, during, or after the term of the Player’s (standard player contract).”
Penalties can include fines of up to $5 million against a club, which can also be directed to forfeit draft picks (number, placement and year are determined by the commissioner).
A player can be fined the lesser of $1 million or 25 per cent of the player’s salary, but no less than $250,000.
Daly said the NHL reserves the right to open an investigation if it deems the move necessary, and he didn’t rule out that move “as further events unfold.”
Update #11: Here's NHL.com's Erin Nicks' take:
On July 5, Senators general manager Bryan Murray said owner Eugene Melnyk had given him a "blank check" in order to re-sign Alfredsson. Murray also told NHL.com on Tuesday that he and Melnyk had discussed scenarios that would have allowed for Alfredsson to stay, in addition to making the trade with the Anaheim Ducks for top-six forward Bobby Ryan.
Alfredsson was vague in discussing specifics of the back-and-forth between his camp and Murray in the days before the breakup.
"I talked to [Murray] before I left [the Senators at the end of the season]," Alfredsson said. "We talked about ideas that he had. We talked about my situation and where I was at. I told him I was leaning towards playing; I'd told him I'd probably need another week. I traveled back to Sweden and I trained that week. Through my agent [J.P. Barry] I told [Murray] the week before the NHL Draft that I was going to play. We started negotiating, but I didn't get into any other details or discussions beyond that."
In an interview with Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun, Murray said he wasn't sure that Barry gave Alfredsson all the details of what happened during the contract negotiations and that the sides never spoke after the initial meeting, which took place in New York.
"I can say this: I'm disappointed," Murray told the Sun. "It seems Alfie isn't totally informed of what went on. That had to do with J.P. (Barry) didn't tell me the truth during the week. He kept saying ‘I can't get in touch with Alfie. I will get back to you with a number.'"
Whether Alfredsson comes back to the Senators in another capacity following his retirement remains to be seen. However, he did leave the door open to a return to the city, if purely for familiarity's sake.
"I don't know how long I'll this new adventure will last or when I will return," Alfredsson said. "But Ottawa will always be home in our hearts."
Update #12: The Canadian Press's Lisa Wallace offers the following:
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."
Alfredsson said he and wife Bibbi, who was by his side at Thursday's news conference, discussed the opportunity offered by the Red Wings and, knowing the impact the change would have on his children, asked for their insight as well.
"Bibbi and the kids and myself struggled with this decision, but in the end we decided we were ready for another adventure and this time in Detroit," said Alfredsson. "I don't know how long this new adventure will last and if or when we will return, but Ottawa will always be home in our hearts."
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.
"Apart from hockey, my work with the Royal Ottawa Hospital and my education about mental health by their team is the most important gift of our years here," he said. "I will continue to support them any way I can."
For a variety of reasons, and under varying ownership and management personnel, the Senators have a history of uneasy relationships and ugly partings with star players, going back more than a decade. How shocking to imagine Alfredsson among them, after 17 special seasons in Ottawa.
Connect the dots and it’s amazing how many of the stories overlap, link to one another. Former captain Alexei Yashin, claiming he had a verbal agreement with Ottawa management that he would be the highest-paid Senators player, missed an entire season in a contract dispute, returned for a final season in 2000-01 – during which he was repeatedly booed on home ice – and was dealt away in a sweetheart trade for Ottawa, fetching defenceman Zdeno Chara and a first-round draft pick that netted Jason Spezza.
Chara himself left under mysterious circumstances in 2006, as John Muckler’s management put the focus on re-signing defenceman Wade Redden. Chara departed as a free agent to Boston, became captain of the Bruins and won a Stanley Cup in 2011. There is evidence Chara was so annoyed with how the Senators treated his pal and fellow Slovak, Marian Hossa, in 2005, Chara would not remain in Ottawa. Muckler signed Hossa to a contract, then traded him to Atlanta the next day. Hossa went on to win two Cups with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Hossa, of course, was initially swapped for Dany Heatley, who would become the focus of yet another star-crossed Senators story. While he twice scored 50 goals in Ottawa, Heatley was not happy with young head coach Cory Clouston, among other issues, and he demanded out in 2009, handcuffing Murray’s potential dealings because Heatley had a no movement clause. Heatley ended up in San Jose, and then Minnesota, while Milan Michalek was the main acquisition in the Heatley trade.
None of the players cited above remotely carried the cache and community goodwill of Alfredsson, a deity slated to be the first modern day Senators player to have his name and number raised to the rafters. That he is still adored in the Nation’s Capital was obvious by his reception at the ROH, an adoration he admits he doesn’t fully comprehend.
For most fans, Alfredsson will be welcomed back, in a way those other ex-Senators cannot be. The ties run too deep. As to the organization, different story. Whatever bridge might have been rebuilt after July 5 has been blown up in back and forth public dialogue in which all sides by now feel like they’ve been “thrown under the bus” by the other.
Regardless of who said what, when, and how one last deal for Alfredsson failed so miserably, the end result is the Senators botched what should have been the easiest handoff in professional sport – the transition from Alfredsson the player to Alfredsson, retired franchise icon.
Update #14: More from Scanlan:
And Shannon Proudfoot wrote a fine Senators fan's take on what's gone down for Sportsnet's magazine:
I’m not angry with Alfredsson-I can’t be. In spite of how this ended, he gave the Ottawa fan base its heartbeat and years of joy, heroics and loyalty. How could we demand he stay with us and give up on the Cup dream he wants to chase before his time runs out? That’s not what you do to someone you love.
Just as in love, the price of admission in sports is pain-and not just for those who play. If you’re going to believe in heroes, if you’re going to ride the screaming, leaping, fist-pumping highs, if you’re going to name your dog or your kid after an athlete who makes you feel seven years old again in the best possible way, you’re signing an invisible contract acknowledging they might break your heart. You just have to hope that when you look at it all later, the price of the ticket was worth the ride.
Now that it’s done, on one side there’s the sadness that wouldn’t even let me look closely at the front page of the Ottawa Citizen the day after the announcement: that No. 11 sweater all by itself, alongside the banner headline “Hej då, Alfie” (“Goodbye, Alfie” in Swedish).
But on the other side of the ledger it is still May 19, 2007, when Alfredsson slipped the puck past Ryan Miller in overtime to send the Sens to the Stanley Cup Final. It took three seconds for me to scream and jump and high-five my friends, and by the time I turned around, Elgin Street was jammed with thousands of red-clad, chanting, bouncing fans who seemed to have poured out of the brickwork. Without a doubt, it was worth it-but that’s also why it hurts so much right now.
Daniel Alfredsson’s story was never supposed to end like this. He was supposed to always be here, always be ours. It’s who he was, and it’s who we were.
Take care of our captain, Detroit. It really doesn’t feel that way right now, but he will always belong to Ottawa.
Update #15: Here's Sportsnet's Chris Johnston's take on the situation:
For a player that has carried himself with as much class as Alfredsson has over the years, it must be a little uncomfortable seeing how messy and public this breakup has become. The fact he even had to hold Thursday’s press conference at the Royal Ottawa Hospital, after already speaking on a conference call when he signed a $5.5-million, one-year deal with Detroit, was a little unusual.
Alfredsson himself admitted that he regretted some of what he said on the July 5 conference call – most notably that the Red Wings have a better chance to win the Stanley Cup this season than the Senators – and there is bound to be even more remorse now.
More than anything, it’s clear the 40-year-old felt slighted by the Sens when the free agency period opened last month.
After giving a couple hometown discounts to the team during his career and playing for a pro-rated $1-million last season, Alfredsson believed he was in line for a nice financial sendoff before retirement.
He had to go to Detroit to get it.
“At the end of the 2012 season, I told the Sens I wanted to play another season and I also asked if they would look at a possible extension for this upcoming season at a fairer level to balance out the two years for both of us. They agreed,” Alfredsson explained. "Sadly, the contract negotiations went nowhere.”
The relationship has been severely damaged as a result. Both sides would be better off if they chose now to focus their energies on the future and refrained from getting into all of the little details that drove them apart. Once these type of situations go sour, there’s very little to be gained by airing all of the dirty details.
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