Alfredsson had his farewell press conference today, and aside from outing the organization for cap circumvention, the words everyone will remember are that he and the organization informally agreed to negotiate an extension that would take into account that minuscule $1 million salary on the last year of his existing deal. There’s some he-said-she-said involved, but the crux of it is no different than any free agent negotiation. Ottawa didn’t show Alfie the love. Detroit did. Hence, he exercised his rights as a free agent and went to Detroit.
It’s an interesting assumption on Alfie’s part: both parties sign a contract under the assumption he won’t play the final year. He decides to play it, but they have a binding contract to adhere to. So he then wants retroactive compensation from the club because the conditions under which he signed a contract years ago changed. That’s a demand you might consider, considering Alfie’s stature in the organization, but still a little bit short-sighted on Alfie’s part. If you’re a pro athlete, you can negotiate a contract guessing what your performance level is going to be years out, but it’s always either at your risk, or the risk of the franchise. When it’s time to negotiate a new contract, the only thing you’re really owed is fair value for your current worth. (See also Henrik Lundqvist’s contract negotiations, which seem to be underway without anyone mentioning the name Roberto Luongo.)
So Detroit was willing to compensate Alfredsson for all the value he provided Ottawa over the years–and more power to them. That should be the end of the story, but of course this franchise’s total inability to communicate consistently and effectively turns a simple case of being outbid into multiple and simultaneous points of contention. (Also: it’s August.)
The message to send right now isn’t that we lost the most important player in franchise history because management stinks at communication and everyone got their wires crossed about money. If Murray’s team had an appropriate appreciation for the power of communication, their message from the beginning — to fans, corporate sponsors, and other free agents — would have been “We will do absolutely anything to win. No one person is bigger than the team. We like our team better this way.”
Relative to Ottawa’s much-referenced internal budget, does it make sense to spend $4 million+ on an effective but aged two-way player? I think Bobby Ryan is the better player, or at least better meets the team’s need for scoring. You can also supplement the loss of the all-around aspects of Alfie’s game by signing another strong possession winger—which Murray did when he signed Clarke MacArthur. We should all be happier with the way the team looks today than how it looked a month or so ago. I don’t know about you, but that’s a message I can buy into. (Or, say, buy tickets for.)
But what about having Ryan, MacArthur, AND Alfredsson? Couldn’t we have had everyone without this infernal budget of ours? Sure. But if we could spend to the cap, even then–would we want Alfredsson over some of the other options?
Let’s look at Damien Brunner, who’s probably one of the best 5-10 free agents still available, and also happens to be a right-handed right winger.
Alfredsson is better than Damien Brunner right now. They were roughly tied in scoring, with Alfie 133rd in the league to Brunner’s 132nd, and Alfie played more minutes, against tougher competition, and has better possession stats. But Alfredsson is more expensive, and trending downward. Playing complementary minutes, Alfredsson is ready to fall off a cliff production-wise, in a way that is sure to make his contract look at least a little bit bad. Even some Red Wings bloggers are questioning the Alfie signing over some of their own RFAs. Brunner, at 27, is theoretically entering his prime.
Now, there’s got to be a reason why Brunner has not signed so far. Maybe his demands are ridiculous. Maybe he’s a bad team guy, or snores loudly at night. Surely he wants term at his age, and that’s a problem. But there are other right wingers available, both of the low-risk/high-reward (Brad Boyes, Peter Mueller) and veteran (Jamie Langenbrunner) variety.
On the back end there remain numerous, affordable options in both puck movers and shut down D, all over the age map, from a veteran presence like Steve Montador or Toni Lydman to supplement the second pairing with either Cowen or Wiercioch if one, or both, stumble, to young-ish guys like Ian White or Carlo Colaiacovo.
In any case — there’s going to be an uproar about Alfie’s comments. “How could he be so mislead!” And, as is usually the case, the best way to move on from any fiasco is bribery and confidence.
Spend some money, Eugene. It’ll make all of your problems go away.