By Allan Muir
Everyone was hoping that Daniel Alfredsson would provide some fireworks at his Farewell to Ottawa press conference this morning, but no one expected a bombshell quite like this.
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," he said. "I agreed. Each side fully expected I would retire and not play the 2012-13 season."
Not that anyone should be taken aback that such shenanigans went on. Asked about Alfredsson's comments a league source said deals like this were common under the old CBA.
Still, it's shocking to hear a player come out and admit to his part in the ruse.
Alfredsson's salary last season was just $1 million after three years of earning $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.
Will anything come of Alfie's gaffe? The league source says, "probably not."
"There might be a few phone calls, but he played the year," the source said. "If he'd said this after retiring before playing that season, I'm sure there'd be a stink, but now, I don't think so."
After offering up that jaw dropper, Alfredsson finally gave his take on the events that led him to bolt from Ottawa after 18 seasons, 13 of which he spent as the team's captain. Although money led to the breakdown, something else contributed to his departure.
"In late June this year, I decided I had it in me to play one more season," he said. "I told management I was prepared to return, and reminded them of our [handshake] agreement [to make up for my 2012-13 salary] from the year before. To my disappointment, negotiations quickly stalled, and only a few days later other teams contacted me, including Detroit."
Essentially, Alfredsson was looking to make back some of what he gave up in his last contract and saw it as an opportunity for the team to reward him for his years of loyalty.
The Sens, or at least owner Eugene Melnyk, appeared to view Alfie simply as the depreciating asset that he is. That might seem like an unsentimental way to treat someone who is engrained so deeply in both the franchise and the community, but as a business decision, it seems pretty clear-headed.
Not that Alfredsson could be expected to see it that way. So for him, it was the lack of respect that drove him to division rival Detroit.
Despite the disappointment, he's looking forward to what lies ahead with the Red Wings.
"This summer we feel like we did all those years ago when we first came to Ottawa," Alfredsson said, "excited and a little bit nervous."
UPDATE: Chris Johnston from Rogers Sportsnet passed this along from NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly:
UPDATE 2: Well, it didn't take long for the Senators to fire back at Alfie.
https://twitter.com/SunGarrioch/status/368048537046495233 Was this a legitimate negotiating stance taken by Alfredsson? Hard to imagine. It's not like he doesn't understand that there was no way the team could fit that under its self-set salary cap of around $50 million. I'm guessing that Garrioch's source didn't appreciate the way the team was painted and wanted to get a quick retaliatory shot in as Alfie walked out the door.