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.”
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.