In what was supposed to be a press conference to reveal head coach (ahem and 2013 Jack Adams Award winner) Paul MacLean’s new three year contract extension, the occasion was hijacked by the ‘uncertain’ status of negotiations taking place between Daniel Alfredsson and GM Bryan Murray.
Without even waiting for anyone to question why the organization had come to terms with its captain, Bryan Murray aggressively went on the attack stating, “I guess it’s the big issue in town now. I didn’t realize it was that big an issue because we’re going to get it done, I would assume.”
Later on this afternoon, reports out of Sweden explicitly indicated that Alfredsson was close to finalizing a contract with the Senators, but Murray did breakdown some of the negotiation details.
“ JP Barry, Alfie’s agent… Alfie and I talked about three days before he went to Sweden. We talked about the ability to add to our team going forward. ‘Are we going to be better this year than last year?’ He said, ‘I need a week or so.’ I read somewhere that I should have negotiated then or I heard that I should have negotiated the contract so when he left and went back to Sweden and decided to return, the deal was done. Well, unfortunately, it got announced before I found out about it. I was told by a variety of people that the announcement had been made. I’ve talked to JP Barry three times. I talked to him the last time yesterday afternoon. It’s decided that we’ll probably talk about one-year at a time and they will come back to me with a dollar figure. I have not heard the dollar figure at this point. I assume that they will call me today and we’ll have an opportunity to talk and decide where we’re going. But that’s where it’s at."
Once that was settled, Murray did his best Chris Neil imitation by coming to the defence of owner Eugene Melnyk. Over the past few days, we’ve seen a number of blog posts taking aim at Mr. Melnyk’s portfolio and we’ve now finally started to see it trickle over into the mainstream media.
The question of whether Melnyk’s finances or alleged lack thereof has affected the Senators’ ability to spend what’s necessary on external players or on its own captain, has been raised.
“All these other stories about Mr. Melnyk not allowing this to happen or that to happen financially, I don’t know where this comes from, I really don’t. I’m disappointed for him and for ourselves, but that’s life in the fast lane now and we know that. But I wish that people would just wait for some facts to come out before they make stories up, that’s all.”
Hey, I’m all for waiting to see what happens when free agency opens on Friday afternoon. If the organization wants fans want to wait for the facts before coming to conclusions, I’ll be equally as content waiting for the organization to put its money where its mouth is. Besides the point, like hell the organization is going to say anything that runs contrary to its sole purpose of selling tickets and convincing fans that it’s committed to winning.
“Yeah, spent the day with (David Clarkson) pretty much. He’s competitive, gritty, tough and in his last full season, he got 30 goals. Last season, he led the Devils with 15. We hope that he chooses us. Unfortunately, we don’t dictate all of it. He’ll have, I’m sure, a number of options but he’s one person that we have targeted. And he fits the role that we’re really looking for. We like grit on our team and I’ve heard from some reporters here that they like the odd guy to have the odd fight; so he can even do that if he had to, I suppose.”
Thing is though, wining and dining David Clarkson may not mean anything. As Murray said himself, the organization does not dictate all of it. For all we know, Clarkson and his agent could be using Ottawa as leverage in their negotiations with another organization – like the one down the 401 who just created some cap space by buying out Mikhail Grabovski.
Don’t get me wrong, Clarkson is a productive and valuable player. His puck possession metrics were great last year and a quick glance at his with or without you (WOWY) numbers will show you that his Devils teammates last season were better with him on the ice than they were without. Nevertheless, it’s tough to get excited about the fact that Clarkson was in when he hasn’t committed to anything yet.
“But, I can tell you this. Mr. Melnyk and I have talked ten times in the last three days and he’s given me the green light to go get a free agent if I can. I told him the target I had and try to get Alfie done. He’s getting, like we are, getting comments made about us that I don’t understand, but I guess that’s the way it goes today.”
Hey, like being in on the Rick Nash sweepstakes, I have no problem waiting for the facts and figures to come out. I just don’t understand why Murray, who acknowledged that he had a conversation with Alfie that involved the captain questioning the organization’s ability to add to its team, is ragging on fans who are doing the same. Surely, Alfie’s more in tune with the financial situation of this team than the fans are. If he’s asking questions about the team’s ability to spend, why shouldn’t we?
So what are the fans saying about the organization or the owner, Bryan?
“That he’s cheap. That we’re cheap. That we don’t spend money. That we’re not willing to.”
Are fans, bloggers and the media saying that? I don’t think so. They’re not questioning the desire or willingness of the organization or Melnyk to spend, they’re wondering whether ownership simply has the money to invest in its player payroll.
Despite these lingering doubts, Murray does understand why fans are anxious because of the negotiations with Alfie.
“No, I understand all of that part of it, just give us a chance… like negotiations are what they are. They take time usually; whether it be for a free agent or a player on our own roster.”
Fans won’t have a hard time giving the organization a chance to back up its words, but if for whatever reason they can’t, there’s going to be some explaining to do.
Murray is just in full deflect/woe is me mode. Melnyk's finances are a matter of public record, as is the Senators limit on spending. As of 9:45 a.m. Eastern, Alfredsson is not signed. Maybe Alfie signs in the next hour or so, maybe he signs in Detroit or elsehwere. Who knows.
One thing for sure though, losing the modern day franchise's first legacy player to free agency would end up losing the team more money from lost season ticket sales (people are ALREADY threatening to cancel if he goes) and loss of good will than would the 3-5 million salary he could accrue.