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Alfredsson: Contract impasse led to Ottawa departure

by Erin Nicks

OTTAWA -- Daniel Alfredsson said goodbye Thursday to the city he called home for 17 years, and in so doing explained how a contract impasse with the Ottawa Senators scuttled his plans to stay.

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 community.

"To Ottawa, to the always loyal Sens fans, to the Sens organization, thank you from the bottom of our hearts," Alfredsson said, reading a prepared statement.

Later in that 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. He signed a one-year contract worth $5.5 million on July 5, the first day NHL free agents could sign with other teams.

"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. "I agreed. Each side fully expected I would retire and not play the 2012-13 season. However, after the 2012 season, I told the Sens I wanted to play another season. I also asked that we look at a possible extension for this upcoming season, at a fair amount, to balance out the two years for both of us. [The Senators] agreed.

"Sadly, the contract negotiations went nowhere, but I played out the season as I had promised. In late June, I decided I had it in me to play at least one more season. I told management that I was willing to return, and I reminded them of our agreement from the year before. But, to my disappointment, negotiations again quickly stalled."

Alfredsson said at that point he started hearing from other teams as free agency dawned without him reupping with the Senators.

"Only days later, several teams contacted me, including [the Detroit Red Wings]," he said. "I knew this team well; I had friends on the team and I liked their style of play. I was also delighted by their enthusiasm about me and their plans for me [joining] their team. That call opened my eyes to a possibility I would have never thought of: to play another year, or maybe even two, with another great team."

July 5, Senators general manager Bryan Murray said owner Eugene Melnyk had given him a "blank check" in order to re-sign Alfredsson. Murray told on Tuesday he and Melnyk had discussed scenarios that would have allowed for Alfredsson to stay, in addition to the team 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."

Murray said later Thursday the team's intention all along was to re-sign Alfredsson. The GM told the team's website that during negotiations Barry asked for $7 million for one season or $12 million for two ($5 million each, with a $2 million signing bonus); the Senators countered at $4.5 million.

Murray said he was expecting discussions to continue, but Alfredsson told him he was looking at other options with "a better chance to win a Stanley Cup on a more veteran team."

"Well, again, I'm disappointed that Daniel Alfredsson left to go to Detroit," Murray said. "I'm disappointed to hear that contract issues were something important to him that he didn't feel we were trying to accommodate.

"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."

Whether Alfredsson comes back to the Senators in another capacity following his retirement as a player remains to be seen. He did leave the door open to a return to the city.

"I don't know how long this new adventure will last or when I will return," Alfredsson said. "But Ottawa will always be home in our hearts."

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