OTTAWA - Eugene Melnyk hasn’t bought Daniel Alfredsson a rocker for his retirement gift just yet.
Speaking on a conference call with reporters Monday, the Senators owner practically begged the captain to return for one more season.
Though the two haven’t discussed the subject, Melnyk says the only achievement Alfredsson, 39, hasn’t had in his career is winning a Stanley Cup. That chance would only exist if he decides to return to fulfil the final year of his contract.
“I haven’t spoken to him directly. I just didn’t think it was appropriate at this point,” said Melnyk. “Whatever he wants to do, he’s going to do. Any decision he makes would be welcome either way for us.
“However, after saying that, there’s no question we want him back. The players want him back, I want him back, the coaching staff wants him back, the fans want him back. Even his kids want him back, I read.
“Everybody wants him back. Look, it’s a very personal decision at this point. He has reached virtually every pinnacle that you can as a hockey player. The only thing he has not done is won a Stanley Cup.
“That could be a great motivator. Can we do it? Possibly. Can we do it with him? More possible. But, it’s going to end up being a decision by him and his evaluation.”
Melnyk said he understands Alfredsson doesn’t want to return if he can’t play up to his capabilities, but after having back surgery last summer he was one of the club’s best players with 59 points this season.
“I don’t want to speak too much for him, but I do know being around him for nine years, he doesn’t want to be a token player,” said Melnyk, who has a front-office job waiting for Alfredsson.
“If he’s going to play, he’s going to play hard and full-out like the Daniel Alfredsson we all know. That’s why it’s going to be a difficult decision for him but we’re all hopeful his body says yes, his mind says yes and his family says yes.
“He showed us the Daniel Alfredsson we’ve all come to know as being the elite player and a stand-up guy second to none. He’s a natural team leader, he knows how to motivate people, people look up to him. It’s a different game when he’s in the game. We want to be part of this organization on mutiple levels for a number of reason.”
If Alfredsson does return, the Senators won’t have the same look. There are always changes and GM Bryan Murray said Saturday he could be seeking a top-end forward and defensive defenceman next season.
The Senators’ payroll was approximately $52 million this season and they aren’t going to be a cap team next year either. Melnyk said Murray can go shopping on the free agent market but won’t have an open chequebook.
“We don’t have to spend that much more because of the way things have worked themselves out with some of the more expensive players with front-end contracts going down,” said Melnyk. “(Murray) knows what numbers we need to work within and we can still get to a point where we fulfil those needs without breaking our bank.”
Melnyk said he is getting over the loss to the New York Rangers in Game 7 last Thursday at Madison Square Garden.
“I’ve done the math and it’s been 85 hours since our loss,” said Melnyk. “Some say time heals all wounds but that Game 7 still stings and it almost reminds me of (the final in 2007). You won’t forget for quite a long time. But it happened and you move on.”
The Senators want to move on with Alfredsson.