Bryan Murray on Day One of Free Agency
It was a busy day in Ottawa with whirlwind news for the Sens surrounding Daniel Alfredsson and new acquisitions Clarke MacArthur and Bobby Ryan. Bryan Murray had plenty to offer to Sens fans on each topic.
But first, this statement from team owner, Eugene Melnyk:
It has certainly been a notable day in the history of our franchise. I am extremely excited to welcome Bobby Ryan and Clarke MacArthur as our newest Ottawa Senators. I would also like to take this opportunity to personally thank Daniel Alfredsson for his many contributions to our hockey club and to our community over the past 17 years. I wish Daniel, Bibbi and their family the very best with all their future endeavours
And now, here is what the Sens GM had to say about the events of July 5...
On Daniel Alfredsson's departure:
They (negotiations) never started, really. I can give you a timeline, to a degree -- I wrote it out so I have the right dates here. On Thursday June 20th I had a meeting with Daniel Alfredsson and we talked about him going home and taking a week or thereabouts to let us know if he was going to come back and play hockey this year. I thought he deserved that. I've heard -- as I said the other day -- I had heard comments that we probably should have given him a contract that day. He indicated to me that he wasn't sure he wanted to take the time, which he did. The following Friday on the 28th, it came out of Sweden that Daniel was going to come back and play. The first meeting I had was Saturday the 29th with JP. That was the one and only time money was talked about, it was just a comment about what we could do and not do. One of the numbers that was at me I said, "that's not really the number we can go to, it's not a fair number, I don't think." In turn, I made a different proposal and he said he would take it to Alfie and the next time I talked to him was July 2 on a Tuesday, he said he would talk to Alfie but didn't get a chance to. On July 3 we talked again and he said I will talk to Alfie and get back to you. On Thursday the 4th, I called four times from my office and we texted and finally said "If you really want to talk to me I'll be at this particular number after 8:30 at night." I walked into my house and got a call from Daniel Alfredsson and said, "Uh oh, something's going on here." We talked for about 30 minutes and he indicated at that time that it wasn't about money. Just so you know, Eugene had said to me, "whatever they come back with, Bryan, just get it done. Just pay him and keep him here." We had talked about a one year deal and a two year deal. That's basically the timeline. I talked to Alfie last night, as I said, and he indicated he thought winning a Stanley Cup was an opportunity he couldn't pass up. He told me the two teams he was talking to. He told me he thought they were in a position ahead of us to make that happen -- I debated with him. I offered him an opportunity to sign a contract with us with a promise that at a particular time in the year -- he could pick the date, December or January -- that if he felt we weren't in a position to be real competitive come playoff time that I would send him to the team of his preference at that time. I think rightfully so on Alfie's part, he didn't want to have to go somewhere halfway through the year and find his way at that time, starting with a new team, he felt it was very important to go in at the start and be part of the whole group. Obviously he has done that and it was, for me, a devastating conversation, a disappointing one, hard to swallow like it is for a lot of people, but I understand a veteran player that hasn't won and wants to win and seize a better opportunity that we, whether we did the right thing or not, we said, "Hey Alfie, we discourage you from doing it" and we talked about Ottawa but the bottom line is he wanted to try it and who can not agree with that decision if he feels it's the right one. He deserves the opportunity to do what he did. He was a great guy here -- it was more than a player/general manager relationship. I regarded him as a friend and a guy I could sit and talk to as a friend. He had great insight in the game and we're going to miss him, there's no question. We're going to miss him as a person, as a leader, as a guy in the community because he's deserving of all the credit he has gotten here and more and all I can say is we can try to move on and do what we can do as the Ottawa Senators.
On if he did everything he could do to keep Alfredsson:
Well, everything that he wanted me to do, we did. We talked about it, I told him where we were going, I told him we were trying to make the Bobby Ryan trade a week and a bit ago, I said "I think we can do that." I told him I think we have a chance to do a couple of other things if we want to, at least at certain times in the year. He knew we weren't a cap team, we're a team with an internal budget but Eugene was very open when I talked about Bobby Ryan earlier and said, "If you can get that done, go do it. Spend whatever it is and get Alfie done, whatever it is." I don't know whether we're ahead of these teams or not. I'd like to think our team is really growing up here fast, I'd like to think that we're going to be very competitive come regular season again. I'd like to prove to Alfie and the rest that we're right there with them, but that's competitive people that are trying to win hockey games. I've been told I should have signed him last January, he was not in the mood to do any of that. He's a man that has been around the game a long time and we talked and were very serious about doing whatever we had to do to keep him. He said it to me, "I know I'm being a little selfish, Bryan, but this is what I want to try to do."
On how legacies are affected:
This is hockey, this is pro sport. People come and go. You don't want them to sometimes, but it does happen. I guess I lost one other player in my time that was really important to a franchise and it was not a financial thing, this is not a financial thing in Alfie's mind or my mind. I think it's totally a desire of a player to try something different and have a better shot in his mind to winning the ultimate goal so if that's part of the history, that's part of the history, but we have to turn the page after the fact. I hope some day he'll come back to Ottawa and be a respected part of the community and I hope our fans understand that this is what happens sometimes.
On if the Ryan trade was contingent on Alfredsson:
I knew what the cost was. When Alfie met with me back in June, I said I don't tell people about trades or what we're doing but this is what I'm trying to do. The pieces were basically the same as when I made the trade today. The only difference in the whole trade that happened was that I was offering a second round pick instead of a first and today when they said, "Well, we really need the first, Bryan, to make it work." They asked for a different player involved too and I said no to that and then I said I'll give you the first instead of the second to make it happen. It wasn't something out of the extraordinary. The thing we did do is we made an offer to David Clarkson. When I made the offer for Bobby Ryan originally, David Clarkson wasn't originally involved. When that kind of fell apart, that's when I got Dave involved as well. I lost out on him this morning. I talked to Bob Murray about the trade before I found out about David as well.
On if the team is stronger today:
Well I think we got a star in Bobby Ryan. He's over a 30 goal scorer each an every year, he's a big strong guy, he has played behind two very good players in Anaheim in Getzlaf and Perry. I think now he gets a chance to come along as a number one line player in our team. He scores goals, he plays big minutes, he's good around the net with and without the puck. I think that we're younger, but it's hard for me to say we're better today because we haven't started to play yet. I think we're equally good, if that's the right word.
On when Alfie negotiations fell apart:
I came in here and ran that we were going to get the deal done and I was convinced it was a matter of one phone call because the indications to me from JP was, "I just have to get the number from Alfie." He called me the one day and said, "Give me your best price, Bryan," and I said, "That's not the way to negotiate this deal. The way to negotiate this deal is, ask Alfie what it's going to take to play in Ottawa. Tell me the number and we'll get a deal." That was my statement to him and I never heard back. When I got nervous was yesterday, when I kept calling and calling and there was no answer. Then I'm walking into my cottage -- first of all, there's a message from Alfie on my phone from Sweden. I woke some poor guy up in Sweden because he left the wrong number, I dialed the wrong number, it was 3 am. As I was hanging up the phone Alfie called me back and that's when we talked.
On if the conversation was open-ended:
He told me he had made up his mind, that he was doing this. I tried to convince him to sign with a trade possibility later on, but he basically said "I really need to do this for myself."
On losing Alfie via free agency:
That's his opportunity to do what he wants to do. He had no obligation to tell me anything. The only thing is had JP told me two or three days ago that this was a very strong possibility, I could have maybe set my target on an additional player today, which I didn't do. We ended up getting two players today, two we're very happy about getting, but losing Alfie is a big blow.
On what losing Alfie means:
Presence in the room, all the intangibles that we've ever talked about with Alfie, still a good player. A guy that -- and I said this to him, you deserve a championship. If you have to beat us to do it, I'm not going to cheer for you let me assure you, but if we're not around and you have a chance obviously we wish him good luck. It's a big figure in the community, totally.
On Bobby Ryan lessening the loss:
I hope we did. I hope our fans see that we lost something we tried very hard to keep. I can't emphasize enough how much Eugene and I have talked and tried to get this contract signed and get him to agree to tell us a number and we'll do it. Eugene has been adamant, "Have you called again? Have you called again?" That's why I called several times yesterday to try to get a number from him so we could close the deal before we went to bed last night. When I finally get the conversation it was with Alfie and not the agent.
On free agent targets:
Clarkson and Alfie, those were the targets that we had. Bobby Ryan was a guy that we had talked about a week ago or a couple of weeks ago, actually, and he was sitting there, I didn't know what was going to happen. When you're making a trade you never know if they're going to pull the trigger or not and then MacArthur came up this morning, I talked to Paul at length about him. We think coming to our team, where he fits, he'll probably play with a Turris type of centre, he's got a history of scoring goals -- I think he can get 15 to 20 goals for us -- and then obviously I got on the phone with Bob Murray -- I was told at 10 o'clock or 9:30 that David was going elsewhere, he wasn't coming to Ottawa. That's when I got on the Anaheim trade again.
We think he can play on the second line for us. He's a skill guy, shoots the puck real well, fairly competitive, not a great big body, skates real well. He has experience. We've got a couple of young guys on their way and he really addresses an experience need on that left wing.
On if there will be more depth pieces added:
Well that's the dilemma we have right now. Is one of our young guys going to be able to play the seven (defenceman) role? Is that the smart thing to do? Or should we let him go down and play longer? We're in that discussion. Likewise, up front, we open the door for one more forward and we've got a number of forwards who are game ready that can come up and play, I think. Training camp more than anything will tell us that. We've got lots of young forwards that could play in the three or two spot at times. More than we need at the moment, actually.
On the pieces given up:
They asked for two or three players that were on our team and I said we couldn't do that. I think Bob understood, after Alfie leaving this morning, that losing two players off the roster would be too difficult for me to do. There were a couple of young guys and Noesen was a guy at the end of the day that I passed on to them and then, as I said, the pick. I think Silfverberg's going to be a good player, he's a real solid guy, he's going to score goals in this league, he plays up and down the ice real well, shoots the puck a ton as we know. He's going to get a chance to play there, he might be a second line player for them at the end of the day. Noesen is going to play in the league, I don't doubt that. He just needs to get his skating a touch better. He's smart, he passes the puck, he's competitive and we like him too but we have to give something up to get a player like Bobby Ryan.
It was a devastating evening. You go to bed and you lie there all night, there's very little sleep involved. I was so disappointed -- I told Alfie, "This is is devastating for you to make this decision. I appreciate it, you had the option to do that." It's been a long day with a lot of calls and lots of options in second tier players, but I guess the bright light is we've got two guys we think can play in our top six forwards. Bobby Ryan can certainly play in the top three. I think we made out okay. Alfie said, "Well Bryan just think of me retiring. If I retired you wouldn't have got anything for me and I'm just going to another team." But I said, "Alfie you're not retiring, you're going to play and you're going to play in our league and, dammit, in our division." It's been tough for a lot of reasons. I have to say, Eugene and I must have talked 20 times over the last couple of days and he was, last night, the same thing. I had to phone him and tell him that this was the end result of all of our talking. He was really disappointed and upset and, you know, losing a character man like Alfie was a big loss.
On the fan reaction:
We had Bobby targeted. If I could get the right deal in place we were going to try to make that deal whether Alfie was here or not. The fans -- anybody that has come to games here and watched our team play the whole 18 years -- you have to feel like what a terrible loss for the franchise. If you didn't feel that, you weren't here very often because this has been a big game player, this has been a good man, this is a guy that helped all of our kids over the last couple of years in particular. I don't know who I'm going to say to now, "You don't have to stay on the ice for a half hour after practice get off and get rest." He loved to stay on the ice and play games. As I said, he was more than just a player. He dropped in my office on a regular basis and we'd talk and he told me about his boys playing hockey and he didn't want to be a coach because that was too tough and all those things. It's hard to lose this guy.
On replacing his leadership:
The good thing we have here is a number of guys, still, that have been here for a period of time, that have shown great character, they are part of the leadership core that we've created here and they will help introduce our young guys into the game. That's going to be hard. The one guy that was the focus point, that's going to be hard to replace.
On how busy day one has been under a new CBA:
I think it's part of the reason in that it's unbelievable the number of calls I've received about other players that didn't fit in the system because of the decrease in the cap or they wanted to go get another type of player or move a salary. So, it's strange that it happened but, knowing the financial cap situation, I think we expected something like this to happen.
On if the Sens are done:
No I've got a couple of calls to return. We're talking, we're not a finished product yet like some teams. Maybe, maybe there will be another move of some sort, it depends on how the other conversations go.
On if they'll add another top six forward:
We drafted that guy this week. (laughs) I don't know. Right now we're talking about a defenceman... We've got Hoffman, we've got Stone, we've got Dziurzynski, we've got Prince, we've got all these kids that have played very well in the latter part of this year in Binghamton. We're going to look at them. If that's not enough we'll do something, but we think one of those kids should be given a real look before we shut the door on them.
Here's video of the presser for those interested:
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