Sens will be busy July 1st. They’re also in rebuild mode with reputation. Not keeping Alfie happy didn’t sit well with a lot of players.
— Steve Warne™ (@TSNSteve) May 21, 2014
It’s been almost a year since Daniel Alfredsson bolted the Senators for the Detroit Red Wings, but the effects of that decision are still being felt today.
For the better part of that year, much of the media and fan focus has been on: A) the effects on the fan base; and B) the leadership void that was created by his absence.
Although we’ve seen some small glimpses of it here and there (ie. Erik Karlsson’s comments to Aftonbladet) or the reactive decision to re-sign Chris Phillips to a two-year contract, for the most part, discussions about the level impact of the Alfredsson’s situation on the players themselves have paled in comparison to its impact on fans.
Like the fans, players are human. They have a thirst for knowledge and they want to have their thumbs on the pulse of what’s going on within their organization.
When you read things about Alfredsson calling Jason Spezza to explain the circumstances for why he decided to leave and then the team struggles out of the gate or you hear that the atmosphere around the players took a turn for the better following the announcement of the organization’s regional broadcast deal with Bell Media, you can’t help but speculate on the circumstances that fostered the struggles and poor morale.
So when you read Steve Warne’s tweet about the Senators having to repair their own image in the eyes of their players, it’s hardly surprising because it helps reaffirm some of the speculation that has been out there.
Of course his tweet was assuredly in response to Senators assistant GM Pierre Dorion’s comments made during an interview on TSN 1200 yesterday that spoke to the kind of activity that the Senators fans can expect on July 1st – the first day that the Senators can formally agree to terms with their five impending 2015 unrestricted free agents (UFAs).
“I think on July 1st, we’ll be busy and that’s as much as I’m going to say about it,” Dorion coyly answered. “With the CBA, unless you’re willing to lend me $250,000, I don’t think I should comment on it.”
Considering the array of veteran talent – Craig Anderson, Clarke MacArthur, Marc Methot, Bobby Ryan and Jason Spezza – slated to hit the open market on July 1st, 2015, a lot of forward thinking fans are wondering (and rightfully so) where Ottawa’s priorities will be outside of Eugene Melnyk chasing his dream of icing the best cost-per-point roster that the NHL has ever seen.
Warne raises an incredibly important point however.
With an owner who’s either unwilling or unable to finance a roster whose combined cap hit approaches the NHL’s imposed cap ceiling, the hope is that the organization will be able to invest or spend smartly. The more prudent it spends money on its players, the more financial flexibility it has to surround its talent with better (and often, more expensive) players or in this case, retain said talent.
Which brings me back to Warne’s tweet – it’s not like players like MacArthur or Ryan were members of the Senators while Alfie was around.
If the Senators truly irked many of their players by their decision to play hardball with Daniel Alfredsson or worse, alleged rumours of Melnyk’s actions directly influencing Alfie’s decision to leave wind up being true, then it’s understandable as to why some within the organization would be upset – especially for a player like Erik Karlsson who admitted in a Swedish interview with Aftonbladet that he missed Alfredsson as a mentor figure and close friend.
Will last year’s Alfie situation really impact the decisions of Ottawa’s impending 2015 free agents?
As it already stands, Jason Spezza’s indicated to management during his exit interview that he’d welcome a trade, however, since the end of the season, all has been quiet in regards to the future of the other four players.
It remains to be seen who stays and goes, but ideally, Ottawa wants to create an environment in which players enjoy it here and will take less money to stay.
Looking at Kyle Turris’ contract and the comments that he’s made since re-upping with the organization, it’s obviously possible. However, if ownership’s alleged actions or presence continues to carry some influence over whether player decides to remain with the organization, it will be incredibly disappointing for this fan base.
Senators Sign Defenceman
In a move that will undoubtedly resonate and move the needle with this “fickle” fan base, the Senators inked Patrick Mullen to a one-year, two-way contract that will keep Mullen as a member of the Binghamton Senators for another season.
From the press release:
Mullen, who turned 28 earlier this month, was acquired by Ottawa from Vancouver in exchange for forward Jeff Costello on March 4. Upon assignment to Binghamton (AHL), the Pittsburgh native recorded 12 points (one goal, 11 assists) and 12 penalty minutes over 20 contests with the B-Sens. He earned two assists while appearing in each of the club’s four post-season games against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
As a 28-year old who has as much NHL experience as you or me, Mullen’s signing may not look like much, but in signing him, the Senators ensured that they will have a known, veteran commodity in Binghamton.
Despite the Senators having at least eight defencemen under team control who will be competing for jobs on the parent roster (or nine if you include Fredrik Claesson), Mullen’s presence gives Binghamton a little added depth in the event that the Senators carry a Mark Borowiecki or a Claesson on their roster.