One of the few, irrefutable truths in life is that there is absolutely no such thing as a sure bet. Sure, certain events seem extremely probable; I will probably wake tomorrow, alive and well in my own bed. Until the day I don't of course. Probable however is not certain and to a degree the act of professional sport (and gambling on such) is based entirely on the principle that literally anything can happen, despite the odds. To borrow the often-repeated but undeniably true cliche; "that's why they play the games" folks. Of course, now that the NHL has moved into it's offseason there's really only one game in town; building and manipulating team rosters in preparation for the 2013-14 season. Although this game certainly moves at a much slower pace than hockey, it is no less ruthless and unpredictable than the matches fans pay good money to see. You can study, analyze and debate until you're short of breath but ultimately, nobody truly knows what's going to happen when the curtains rise on day 1 of NHL free agency; sometimes not even the players themselves. In the wee hours of the morning before the market officially opens, things can and do change in the blink of an eye. Hockey is a cold, merciless business in these moments, hard choices are made and promises are often broken. When an organization and a living legend decide to part ways; you can bet that such acts of skullduggery will be performed under the cover of darkness, while much of the hockey world sleeps.
sign with the Detroit Red Wings on July 5th, 2013. By virtually all public accounts, Alfie was desperately wanted back in Ottawa this season. His relationship with the fans and the city itself has always been fantastic. As recently as June 28th, Daniel was absolutely going to retire as a lifelong member of the Ottawa Senators. The story had changed slightly by July 4th; but all signs still pointed towards Alfredsson returning to the Senators for 2013-14. As nightfall came however; somehow the specter of Alfie's departure grew from an impossibility into an uneasy sense that something dramatic was about to happen the next day. First there were reports that Alfredsson was down to Ottawa, Boston and Detroit. Suddenly, a choice was in fact possible. Rather than merely entertaining calls from general managers while his contract was being negotiated, Alfie had become a piece that could be acquired on the market. Then, ESPN's Pierre Lebrun (
fumbled the opening offer phase of negotiations by presenting Daniel with an insulting 1 year, $4M contract; by all accounts they recovered nicely. Reports indicated that late in the process the Senators were offering Alfie a literal "blank check" to create his own 1 year deal. While the salary cap and a desire not to look like a pillaging raider would have prevented him from getting too outrageous; Alfredsson could easily have beat the Wings' 5.5 million dollar offer and stayed right where he was for what will likely be his final NHL season. For most hockey players, an extra half million dollars or so would have been more than enough to sooth whatever hurt feelings management's initial offer inspired. Unfortunately for the Senators, it would appear that Alfredsson is not most hockey players and it's certainly fair to say that his relationship with the franchise has been strained at times. In 1997 Alfredsson staged a holdout during contract negotiations that got so acrimonious that then GM Pierre Gauthier suggested the team would never be able to resign Daniel. Rumor has it that when the deal was finally signed, Alfredsson was actively looking for an International League squad to sign up for while he waited out the Senators 5 year, $16M offer. Of course, Alfredsson and the team did eventually see eye to eye and Daniel would go on to a long and glorious career in Ottawa; peaking perhaps with the captain leading his team to the 2007 Stanley Cup final.
4 year contract extension that was designed to take him to his eventual retirement with the Senators. Although the dollars were spread out across 4 years; a closer look at the numbers makes it clear that Alfredsson was really signing a 3 year contract with a 4th year at $1M thrown in to keep his salary cap charge lower. When Daniel decided to come back for another season last year, talks began to renegotiate the final year of his deal. Ultimately however, these negotiations fell through and Alfie was forced to play out the final season of his contract as written. While, obviously I wasn't in the negotiation room; I don't think it's unfair to suggest that Alfredsson felt that he was worth considerably more than $1M to the Sens last season. It also seems fair to suggest that given his popularity, years of service and general refusal to complain about playing for way less than market value; Alfredsson was expecting to be rewarded with painless contract negotiations this offseason. When management offered not only a single year, but only 4 million dollars; was that the moment that Daniel Alfredsson decided to think about life after the Ottawa Senators? Is it possible that the dispute wasn't about money, so much as respect and that by the time Melnyk broke out the check-book; Alfie had already decided that he was moving on?
reflect poorly on his image and by the end of his tenure in Ottawa, his slightest actions were being viewed as signs that he had quit or was about to quit on the franchise, by both fans and media. When a man can't skate with his children, throw a waterbottle or keep a puck for his mantle without an entire city going on suicide watch, perhaps it's time for a change of scenery; for the mental health of everyone involved if nothing else. Still, after years of admiring him from afar, it's hard for me to picture Alfie as the dishonest villain he appears to be in this scenario. I can't help but keep going back to that interview in Sweden, where Alfredsson seemed genuinely optimistic about resigning with the Senators either "today or tomorrow". In fact, that interview represents the last time I've heard Alfie sound genuine at all; his Red Wing teleconference and subsequent statements have been awfully terse and devoid of emotion. Regardless of what it was, something drastically changed about Alfredsson's outlook in Ottawa over the past 72 hours and in the end it was enough to drive him to Detroit.
highly skilled, two-way forward capable of playing powerplay, penalty kill and scoring line minutes immediately. Unfortunately, this need came with the caveat that said forward would have to agree to a short term contract; to avoid clogging up the pipeline of a team rebuilding on the fly in the salary cap era. Detroit could offer some degree of money, but Ken Holland was never prepared to offer significant term and that had put the Wings out of the running for a number of the highest profile, mercenary forwards available in free agency; including their own. By signing Stephen Weiss to a 5 year, $4.9M contract, the Wings revealed that they were prepared to pay for a true, 2nd line center. The same was not true for a player who projects as winger in Mike Babcock's system however; or Holland likely would have kept Filppula instead. In the end, the pairing was a perfect match. Alfredsson brings the exact skill set the Wings' required to improve their team this season, while simultaneously not desiring a contract long enough to keep prospects like Tomas Jurco, Riley Sheahan and Calle Jarnkrok trapped in the minors any longer than is necessary. Although there are some concerns about Alfie's age and durability; the simple truth is that any forward both skilled enough and willing to accept Holland's terms was going to come with some wear on his tires. Although it's a matter of personal opinion; I believe that Daniel's leadership, previous relationship with Henrik Zetterberg and familiarity with Mike Babcock's system makes him a better choice than similar 1-year rentals like Jaromir Jagr, or Jarome Iginla.
scoring punch to a toothless Wings attack, that was ultimately responsible for losing an otherwise winnable series against Chicago last season. As if that weren't enough; both the team and the player know that none of this will matter in the slightest if the Red Wings don't advanced deep into the playoffs. By his own admission, Alfie came to Detroit because the organization is committed to winning a Stanley Cup; a statement that will no doubt galvanize the Senators and Bruins at least to prove him wrong. Frankly, considering Alfredsson's fame, his sudden "heel turn", and the long term success of the Wings' franchise; it wouldn't be unfair to suggest that the whole world will be watching Motown for any sign of failure this season. At this point, only a fool would accuse Daniel of choosing "the easy path"; he's all in on a roller coaster ride straight into the mouth of hockey hell and he isn't coming back out unless he can help lead the Wings to Stanley Cup redemption. Welcome to Detroit Mr. Alfredsson; don't mind the swirling lightning, "we'll give ya, shelter from the storm."
- Sportsball Chic