October 31, 2008
Captain plays good soldierDeal finally gives Alfie fair market value, also gives Sens flexibility under cap
It's hard to imagine the Senators without Daniel Alfredsson wearing his captain's sweater.
But, as we all know, the clock is ticking.
That point is brought home with the news of Alfredsson's contract extension.
It's likely the 35-year-old's last contract and given the structure of the deal, it's easy to surmise he won't play more than another three years after this season.
As I mentioned last week, the four-year, front-loaded deal would allow Alfredsson to be compensated at close to market value ($9.1 million next year does that nicely), while allowing GM Bryan Murray some flexibility when it comes to the salary cap.
The structure of the contract (a mixture of salary, signing bonuses and a buyout of option years from the current deal) also pays Alfredsson $7 million in 2010-11, $4.5 million in 2011-12 and just $1 million in 2012-13.
The $16.1 million over the next two seasons puts Alfredsson on par with players like Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley in the Senators' payroll hierarchy and rightfully so.
His production is on par with those players and his importance to the team in other categories of value is greater.
(Just an aside: It is not often mentioned, but Alfredsson is likely the player most affected by the current collective bargaining agreement. He signed a contract extension just before the lockout and has been living with the 24% clawback since. Regardless of whether you think hockey players are grossly overpaid, the fact is since the lockout, Alfredsson has left about $6 million on the table. He's not going to make that back.)
Looking at the extension, it's pretty clear Alfredsson must think he's got three years left to play because I don't think the intention is to play the fourth and final year of the contract. That year was added to lessen the cap hit, another example of Alfredsson being the good soldier.
That said, because he is 35 when entering his deal, the Senators are on the hook for Alfredsson's cap hit for all four years, whether he plays out the deal or not.
As it stands, the deal totals $21.6 million over four years, for an annual cap hit of $5.4 million. For now the hit will be $4.875 million because the league hasn't decided how to account for a $2.1-million bonus included next year to buy out the option.
If the deal stood for its first three years, the total would be $20.6 million with a cap hit of $6.87 million. That's a saving of close to $1.5 million a year on the cap over the first three years.
"That's enough to have a couple of young players in the lineup," said Murray.
Even though he could be stuck with a $5.4-million hit on the fourth year and no player -- if Alfredsson decides to retire by then -- Murray likes the structure of the deal.
"I think it worked out fine," he said of the agreement.
Alfredsson is now in position to play his entire NHL career with the Senators. During a conversation on the Senators' trip to Sweden, he said he could see himself settling in Ottawa once his playing career was done.
He said he'd always go back to Gothenburg during the summers, but with his kids getting into the school system and himself getting more involved with community initiatives (like the Royal Ottawa Hospital's You Know Who I Am campaign), the roots were getting deep enough that it would be difficult to go somewhere else.
With Heatley, Spezza, Mike Fisher and Chris Phillips and others signed for at least the next couple of years, the Senators should have a competitive team through the life of Alfredsson's contract, so he should not find himself caught in a rebuilding situation.
Alfredsson does not look like a player in decline. He has played his best hockey north of 30. In the three years since the lockout, he has averaged 93 points (thanks to the opening up of the game) compared to 61 pre-lockout.
He still looks like a man with a lot yet to give.