Friday, July 5, 2013

Murray Sends Jolt Through Ottawa With Huge Bobby Ryan Trade

On a day that Ottawa GM Bryan Murray called "devastating", one which saw face of the franchise Daniel Alfredsson walk away to the Detroit Red Wings, Senators fans were emotionally rag-dolled around like Bryan McCabe at the hands of Zdeno Chara.

Murray swung a blockbuster trade late in the afternoon, bringing in winger Bobby Ryan from Anaheim in exchange for Jakob Silfverberg, prospect Stefan Noesen and a first rounder in 2014.

It went from "everything is terrible" to "what the f**k" in about six long hours where nobody from Senators management tried to explain the failure to sign Alfredsson, causing a day-long furor locally where fingers were pointed in all directions, most noticeably at owner Eugene Melnyk and Murray himself.

You can imagine Murray was absolutely hell-bent on completing the Ryan trade before having to face the media and trying to explain how Alfie escaped his grasp. The move for Ryan was impeccably timed and absolutely necessary from both a hockey and PR standpoint. Combined with a very smart signing of left-winger Clarke MacArthur, those two moves potentially add about 50 goals to the Senators lineup this season.

That's after you subtract Alfredsson and Silfverberg's expected totals, but anyway you look at it, this is an upgrade statistically in the short term. Sure, if Alfredsson goes on to win a Stanley Cup and Silfverberg eventually scores 40 goals, Sens fans will be retching in unison. But for now, Murray absolutely pulled this day out of the fire.

The big winner of the day is Jason Spezza who is a strong candidate to be named the new captain, and now has a real goal scoring winger in Ryan with a possibly healthy Milan Michalek as well. If his back holds up, Spezza should be right back in contention for the Art Ross Trophy next season.

In MacArthur, Murray gets a winger with 20 goal potential to play with Kyle Turris, allowing players like Cory Conacher, Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Mika Zibanejad to develop at their own pace instead of being thrust into a top-six role they likely aren't prepared for just yet.

In light of the Alfredsson fiasco, it was a very solid move by an experienced general manager who knew he had to make a splash, if only to prevent fans from flipping cars on Elgin Street tonight.

Murray then went on to face the press at around 5:00 eastern and the Alfredsson story became a little more clear.

As said before, Murray used the word "devastating" multiple times talking about the phone call he received from Alfie Thursday night, informing him of the bad news. In Alfredsson's prior media availability, he made it clear that the decision was "a selfish" one,  and was made solely to "win the Stanley Cup" but the details on the confusing negotiations with Ottawa were not really addressed.

Murray's version of events were a little different than the way he presented it the day before. This time he admitted to exchanging numbers with Alfredsson's agent J.P. Barry but both sides rejected the terms. There was an initial offer by Barry which Murray rejected and a counter by Murray which was rejected as well. This is significant for a number of reasons.

We were led to believe that, essentially, a "blank cheque" was offered to Alfredsson to return. Now we know that Murray, at least once, suggested a dollar amount that was rejected by the captain's side. Did this unsatisfactory offer start Alfredsson on a path to looking at other options? I'd say that's a safe bet. Obviously the Senators didn't come out aggressive and it looks like it cost them big time, depending on what you believe.

As I talked about in my previous post, something happened recently to turn Alfredsson from "Mr. Ottawa" into a guy seriously listening to offers from Detroit and Boston. It might have been this talked about rejected offer, it could have been older discussions with Murray about how much money the Senators had to spend on other players, or it could have been just what Alfredsson indicated, that he wants to win the Stanley Cup and Detroit offered a better chance than Ottawa.

One thing is clear to me after hearing both sides speak - Murray didn't want Alfredsson to leave. We can debate the negotiating style, and why Murray didn't come on strong with an early offer that Alfredsson couldn't refuse, but I think Murray was sincere in his comments and understands the ramifications in the fan-base at the loss of the captain.

The hockey obsessives can digest the loss of Alfredsson by pointing out the goal scoring added to the team and turning stats around to make this look like a clear win for Ottawa, but the ham-and-eggers, the fans who don't sit on Twitter all-day, the ones who just watch the games, will have a much harder time with this.

Alfredsson was their guy. He WAS the Ottawa Senators. He's been around so long that teens who cheered for him in the 90's now have kids of their own who cheer for #11. The Senators have built their marketing around him for years and in the process created a local legend. It's tough to explain to fans that the captain who already said he wanted to stay an Ottawa Senator is now playing for another team.

At the end of the day, the Bobby Ryan trade really turned things around for Ottawa and set this team up for the future. It's a huge move and provides goal-scoring this team hasn't seen since the days of Dany Heatley.

Yet there's still a bit of a stench to the loss of Alfredsson and it's still hard to imagine this team without him.

The fallout will continue over the next few days, but with Bobby Ryan in a Senators uniform, it will be a lot easier for fans to get over the blunt force trauma of seeing the once unthinkable happen.


Anonymous said...

You'll never see a professional athlete hold a press conference and say that "I've made a bold decision because my feelings are hurt." Things don't work that way.

I don't know Alfredsson, or anyone in the Sens organization, but based on the press conferences that I've listened to today, the only story that rings true is that Alfie was hurt/insulted/pissed off/disappointed by the way the negotiations were handled.

For the record, I'm on Team Alfie. Greatest player in franchise history. He deserves better than "a blank cheque". In my view, "a blank cheque" is not complement.

A "blank cheque" is great if your relationship is transactional. If you hire a cab, and you give the cabbie a blank cheque, the cabbie would love it. A blank cheque works in that situation.

But, if you give your heart to an organization, your looking for the organization to put some heart into an offer. Letting negotiations drag on, is the exact opposite of that.

I think the guy wanted to feel appreciated by the team management. Instead, they tried to low-ball him.

In my view, and I don't know any of the parties involved, it looks like they used the fact that he his well settled in Ottawa as leverage; as in he's not going anywhere so what's the least it would take to get him to play.

If Melnyk is pissed at the turn of events, here's a suggestion: low-ball the Murrays. They are from the Ottawa area, so give them the lowest salary in the league, they won't go anywhere.

Or maybe they would. And if they would, then they understand why things unfolded the way they did.

Jeremy Milks said...

Good points all.