Is a blank check really a blank check if it comes with stipulations? Can a stated dedication to a player later be used against that player? The team? The situation with the Ottawa Senators - specifically between their owner, Eugene Melnyk and their former captain, Daniel Alfredsson - is a case study in how messages can get mixed up. Fans can be forgiven for not knowing which, if any, side to take.
Melnyk has been asked repeatedly to explain how the Senators didn't retain the services of their most recognizable and beloved player. Again and again, it has come back to money, which is always a concerning thing for fans of a team to hear. If a team doesn't have the funds to sign its top player, then what? What else does he not have the funds to do? According to Melnyk, he did have the funds to sign Alfredsson, just not to upgrade the team as well like Alfie reportedly requested.
In an exclusive interview with the Citizen, Melnyk said the team wouldn’t have been able to afford a player the calibre of Bobby Ryan — the Anaheim Ducks’ star forward the team dealt for hours after learning Alfredsson would sign elsewhere — and meet the numbers put forward by Alfredsson’s camp.
“You can’t have it both ways and say, ‘Well I want this for me, but I want you to do this with me and the team.’ It’s ‘which one do you want?’”
Melnyk says he eventually told general manager Bryan Murray: “We won’t be able to spend that kind of money, so don’t promise that we’re going to bring anybody else in other than filling a hole that was there.”
Interesting. Did Alfredsson specially say "I want Bobby Ryan?" Did he say "hey, I sense a few holes here, could you do what you can to upgrade them?"
Whatever the case may be, the now infamous Blank Check applied only to Alfredsson's salary, not any other requests that he might have had. One only has to look at Alfredsson's last contract with the Senators to see where Melnyk's "him or the team" argument falls through. Alfie signed for a four year deal at a team-friendly cap-hit of $4,816,951. His paycheck started at $7 million for the first two years, then dropped to $4,500,000 before plunging to just a million dollars.
The cap hit is friendly, presumably because he wanted you to use some of that space to sign players that would help the team. You get the last two seasons of Alfredsson for far, far less than that cap-hit. Now Melnyk is saying a team upgrade wouldn't be possible, not just because he didn't have the funds before when he was underpaying his team's captain, but because he wouldn't have the funds to pay him for one more season.
The Red Wings signed Alfredsson to a one-year deal worth $5,500,000 thanks to $2 million in bonuses. Yes, it would have been a raise for the Senators, but not a huge one. It seems that more and more the fact that Alfredsson will retire a Red Wing comes down to the fact that Melnyk either cannot or does not want to spend money, not to Alfredsson's salary demands.
If Melnyk is trying to pin the problem on Alfredsson, he needs to try harder.