Say what you will about Sportsnet, but Senators correspondant Ian Mendes has conducted himself with a lot of class and restraint while covering the Senators. He’s as aware as anyone of how sensitive this fan base is about Alfie. With that in mind, I don’t take his report that this might be Alfredsson’s last season, and that he would consider a trade, very lightly.
I don’t want to use this space to get sentimental about the best player in franchise history. If and when this supposed trade or retirement happens, there will be no shortage of tributes – from us included. But right now I can’t help but think about how unbelievably helpful trading a player of Alfredsson’s caliber could be for this team. Having him retire as a Senator would be nice. Getting a 1st round pick and a prospect, having him win a cup, and then welcoming him home with a cushy front office gig or the title of Swedish scouting czar would be even better.
Because Alfie isn’t just a nice deadline acquisition: he would be one of the best on the deadline market in years. He still led this team in scoring before going on the shelf last year. He plays an incredible two-way game, plays on the power play and penalty kill, has been a captain in the NHL for years, has produced late into the playoffs, and has done so consistently. If Keith Tkachuk could get St. Louis a player, a 1st, 2nd and 3rd round pick (albiet from Don Waddell, hardly a model GM), what does Alfie garner?
There’s also the comic book fantasy of seeing one of our favorite players compete on one of the league’s most skilled teams. How would he do in Detroit, or Vancouver? What would he look like playing on the powerplay in Washington?
And besides: this is probably his last year. It’s less any one injury problem than a nagging and unspecific set of maladies that are keying the captain in on the impending end. After 16 seasons in the NHL, there’s just an amount of wear-and-tear the human body has difficulty sustaining. He’s already celebrated his 1000th game, his 1000th point, and an Olympic gold medal. There aren’t too many milestones left for him other than winning the Cup.
This one might hurt, sure. But you know what’s worse? Living through the Mats Sundin debacle in Ottawa. Weeks upon weeks of intense media coverage asking if he’d be willing to accept a trade, whether he’d do what is right for the franchise again, one last time, by getting us that extra draft pick or prospect. Sure, Alfie’s earned the right to choose, and no one will hold it against him if he chooses to stay. But thinking about the possibilities for this rebuilding club is tantalizing.