He is the most beloved player in the history of the Ottawa Senators franchise. However, that didn't stop Daniel Alfredsson from closing out his time with the Senators and signing with the Detroit Red Wings.
It was not easy for Alfredsson, because he had been playing with the Senators since his rookie season of 1995-96, the fourth season in the franchise's history.
Alfie was the beloved face of the Ottawa franchise. Few thought the 40-year-old superstar would ever leave the team, even if he had never won the Stanley Cup with them. Alfredsson is obviously near the end of his career and it seemed that he would play out his last year or two with the Sens.
But he made a decision that could have a lasting impact on his legacy.
He decided that having a chance to play for the Stanley Cup was more important than leaving on a good note in Ottawa. He was courted by the Detroit Red Wings and the Boston Bruins, and he decided to call Detroit his home.
There have been other players who have left their longtime teams to win a Stanley Cup before. One of the most notable is Ray Bourque, who had played stellar defense for the Boston Bruins from 1979 through 2000. The Bruins had a number of excellent teams in those years and got to the Stanley Cup Final twice, but had never won it.
They were also going downhill. Bourque could not see any chance to win the Stanley Cup with the Bruins. Harry Sinden, recognizing Bourque's desires and his loyal service to the Bruins, wanted to give his star player a chance to win the Stanley Cup. He traded him to the Colorado Avalanche.
While Bourque and the Avs were not successful in the 2000 playoffs, they won the Stanley Cup in 2001. It was a glorious moment for Bourque as the Avs edged the New Jersey Devils in seven games. Captain Joe Sakic was the first member of the team to hoist the Cup, and he quickly passed it to the beaming Bourque.
Bourque retired shortly thereafter and moved back to Boston. He is still a Bruins icon.
Alfredsson will undoubtedly be a Senators icon in the future. But right now, the wound is too fresh and too raw for that idea to be considered.
Cyril Leeder is the Senators' president and CEO. He told the Ottawa Sun that nothing is guaranteed when it comes to Alfredsson's future with the team.
Will the Senators raise his number to the rafters?
“We’ll see,” Leeder told Don Brennan of the Ottawa Sun. “I’m not going to prejudge that now. That’s an announcement that should come at a different point in time.”
Leeder also addressed Alfredsson taking a position in the team's management when his playing days are over, something that owner Larry Melnyk said would be offered to Alfredsson.
“I think that’s still to be determined,” Leeder told Brennan. “I don’t think that was a foregone conclusion, that Daniel was going to come and work for the organization. I know that had been talked about by a number of people but I think that’s still to be determined in the future.”
That's the bleeding wound of Alfredsson's departure doing the talking.
General manager Bryan Murray provided a timeline in his press conference of how he learned of Alfredsson's decision to leave. When he realized Alfredsson was telling him he would not be coming back to Ottawa, Murray used the word "devastating" to describe the conversation.
Alfredsson decided to leave a team that appeared to be on the upswing. The Senators made the playoffs two years in a row under head coach Paul MacLean and had beaten the Montreal Canadiens in the first round this year before falling to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Sens had played heroically in 2013 because they suffered a slew of injuries that would have stopped most teams. They survived and thrived and the future looked bright.
If the Sens were faltering, perhaps Alfredsson's decision would have been easier to take. But the Senators believe they are on the rise.
There's a difference between a player like Alfredsson leaving Ottawa and Bourque leaving Boston, or new Hall of Famer Chris Chelios leaving the Chicago Blackhawks as he did after the 1998-99 season. The Bruins and Blackhawks had long histories, and while both were great players in Boston and Chicago, respectively, neither was the best player in franchise history.
Bourque left the Bruins with their blessings. Chelios did not, but the Blackhawks did not go into shock when he left to play for a hated rival.
However, the Blackhawks were not so forgiving when superstar Bobby Hull left the team to play for World Hockey Association's Winnipeg Jets prior to the 1972-73 season.
Will Daniel Alfredsson ever be welcomed back to Ottawa with open arms?
Hull was persona non grata around the Blackhawks for decades. They did not relent and welcome him back until 2008. That was shortly after Rocky Wirtz took over the team following the death of his father William "Bill" Wirtz in 2007. Now, Hull is one of the proud Blackhawks alumni who are often featured at key home games.
But that took more than 35 years.
The Senators are devastated now, and they will never forget what it felt like when Alfredsson decided to leave. At some point, however, Alfredsson will go into the Hall of Fame in a Senators sweater.
He will return to Ottawa and his long and great career will be celebrated.
However, that celebration may be a bit more muted than it would have been had he remained in Ottawa until the end of his career. The Senators and their fans will never forget that Alfie left and that he finished his career with the Red Wings.