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Alfredsson now 'a Senator for life'

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
He is the "heart and soul" of the Ottawa Senators franchise.

Daniel Alfredsson has assured it will stay that way and that he'll finish his career with the only National Hockey League team he has ever known. Team owner Eugene Melnyk announced today that the Senators have re-signed their captain to a new four-year contract that will keep Alfredsson on board in Ottawa through the 2012-13 season.

"This is obviously a special day for me and my family," Alfredsson said at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Fla., where the Senators will face the Florida Panthers tonight (7:30 p.m., NHL Network, Team 1200). "To be able to spend my whole career with one team... it's pretty special in today's pro sports.

Captain Daniel Alfredsson stands beside the Senators jersey he'll wear for another four seasons after signing a new contract with the team today (Photo by Tenille Lively/Sunrise Sports & Entertainment).
"We're really rooted in Ottawa, in the community, and I really look forward to the challenges ahead, both on the ice and off the ice as well. Ottawa has become my hometown."

Melnyk called the announcement "a historic day" for the organization and fulfilled his desire to make Alfredsson "a Senator for life."

"It's something I promised our organization and our fans when we signed him (to his current contract) in 2005," said Melnyk. "I recently repeated that's what we wanted to get done, so that Daniel finishes his career in Ottawa.

"It's a great day for us in the franchise and a great day for the people of Ottawa and the fans."

Alfredsson, who's entering his 10th season as the Senators' captain, is the franchise's all-time leader in games played (861), goals (334), assists (522) and points (856). He is also Ottawa's career leader in games played (101), goals (43), assists (37) and points (80) in the Stanley Cup playoffs and is the only Senators player to win an individual season award (Calder Trophy, 1996, as rookie of the year).

While he'll turn 36 in December, Alfredsson's last three seasons have been the best of his career in terms of production: A career-high 103 points in 2005-06, followed by seasons with 87 and 89 points.

"I've really enjoyed and been happy about the way I've been playing since the lockout (in 2004-05)," said Alfredsson. "You always try to improve and as you get older, the biggest challenge is to stay healthy. If I can do that, my fitness is good enough that I should be able to play at a high level. I feel enthusiastic about everything."

Senators general manager Bryan Murray called his captain "a great person and a great player."

"This guy is one of our best, if not (still) the best player on our hockey team," he said. "I think he can continue to play at a high level for a few more years. Obviously, we're thinking four years.

"Eugene, when we discussed extending the contract, was adamant (in saying) just get it done. We want this guy in our organization for the rest of his career and we hope he plays longer than this. But certainly, it gives us a chance to keep watching him play for the next four years."

Melnyk also marveled at Alfredsson's resiliency in battling back from injuries. Earlier this season, Alfredsson had arthroscopic knee surgery to remove a bone chip in his right knee. He only missed one game.

Two games from the end of last season, he tore ligaments in his knee when blindsided by a thunderous hit by Mark Bell of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The original prognosis suggested he would be gone for at least a month, if not more, but Alfredsson suited up for Games 3 and 4 of the Senators' first-round Stanley Cup playoff series a little more than a week later.

"I don't know how he even put his skates on, never mind going out there and inspiring his team and inspiring the fans," said Melnyk. "For somebody with that kind of grit to come out and play hurt for the team just showed me what kind of man we're dealing with. There's no question he's the heart and soul of the franchise and certainly a role model for the community itself. "

Alfredsson has also been heavily involved in charity work within the community, something he is eager to continue in the years to come. He said he would also consider a position within the organization after his playing days are done.

"I'll probably be around the team in some capacity," he said.

It's an idea that Melnyk has clearly already entertained as well.

"We see each other all the time and talk about things," he said. "(Alfredsson) has some ideas. He's more of an entrepreneur than a lot of people think. We'll see. But the key is, he's here for the next four years and you know what, it wouldn't surprise me at all if he played beyond that."

The Senators have now locked up four key forwards – Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley and Mike Fisher – for the forseeable future.

"They know they're going to be around for the next several years and they have to step up," said Melnyk. "And now you build around (that core), that's what you do."

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