Ottawa Senators general manager Bryan Murray reiterated Thursday he was sorry to see longtime captain Daniel Alfredsson sign with the Detroit Red Wings, but said he's more concerned now with the outlook for the upcoming season.
"I'm disappointed that Daniel Alfredsson left to go to Detroit," Murray told the Senators website after Alfredsson met the media during a visit to Ottawa and discussed the contract impasse that led to his departure. "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."
Alfredsson signed a one-year contract worth $5.5 million with Detroit on July 5, the first day NHL free agents could sign with other teams.
In remarks made at his press conference Thursday morning, Alfredsson said he expected to retire after the 2011-12 season and added one year at $1 million to his contract to help the Senators manage the NHL salary cap.
He said when he decided to return for 2012-13, he asked to rework his contract but was unsuccessful. Alfredsson said he was looking for "a fair amount, to balance out the two years for both of us. [The Senators] agreed."
Then, when he made up his mind this offseason to continue playing, he and the Senators again could not come to terms.
"In late June, I decided I had it in me to play at least one more season," Alfredsson said. "I told [Senators] 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."
Murray said the team's intention was to re-sign Alfredsson. He said that during negotiations, agent J.P. 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.
"I thought that J.P. Barry and I had a good meeting in Montreal prior to the draft," Murray said. "We both presented numbers that I was led to believe, from talking to J.P. on the following Tuesday, that he was going to talk to Daniel Alfredsson and come back to me with a number that was the right number for them to stay in Ottawa and play. I waited for that to happen, I was told that would happen -- not that I was supposed to present another number -- but it was supposed to be the other way."
Murray said the Senators didn't find out until Thursday evening, the night before free agency began, that Alfredsson was seriously considering going somewhere else.
"At 8:40 that evening, I got a call from Daniel telling me that he was investigating either Boston or Detroit; he didn't tell me which team at that point," Murray said. "He told me he thought there was a better chance to win a Stanley Cup on a more veteran team, that he felt we were going to be at the low [end of the] cap and, therefore, not going to be able to sign another veteran or two, and that was the last I heard until he signed with Detroit."
Though Murray lauded his former captain and said he regrets his departure, the GM added he's optimistic about the Senators' chances this season. Ottawa finished seventh in the Eastern Conference last season and advanced to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs before losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
"I have to say that I have great respect for Daniel Alfredsson," he said. "I have admiration in that he was a great player on the ice. He was a good captain in the room. He spent a lot of time talking to me and our management people. He cared greatly about the organization. I have to wish him all the luck in the world and hope that he fulfills a dream that we all have in this business and that's to win.
"But from our point of view, we have a rookie camp coming up in about three weeks. We have NHL camp starting. We're left with, I think, a real good nucleus of players. We've made a couple of additions so we have to all move on. For us to go back and forth about who said what is unfair to both parties and I'd prefer to wish Daniel good luck and get on with our business of having a very good, competitive hockey club in Ottawa."