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Ottawa Senators Daniel Alfredsson makes his way to a team photo session in Ottawa Saturday, January 12, 2013, as the team gears to start up the shortened hockey season after a prolonged NHL players strike.

The Canadian Press

This is not an exaggeration: if Daniel Alfredsson were ever to decide that his future lies in politics, he could get elected to any office he wants in Ottawa.

Actually, better change that to past tense, given he is reportedly poised to sign a free agent deal with the Detroit Red Wings.

It's going over about as well as you'd expect; Senators fans are venting their collective spleen on social media and talk radio.

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Alfredsson's popularity in his adopted city is immense, as my colleague Roy MacGregor noted recently, he didn't just move to Ottawa to play hockey, he wove himself into the fabric of the city, and "is so imbedded in the Ottawa Valley he rides snowmobiles and has four boys tacking "ehs" onto the end of their English sentences."

But business is business, and Alfredsson's decision to leave can be considered the official end of an era; if Alfie can look elsewhere, the days of players spending their entire careers with one team are well and truly over.

The NHL's longest-serving captain will not retire as a Senator, inconceivable as that may seem.

Beyond his stature in the community, he's been a mentor – and surrogate father – to Ottawa's young core of Swedish prospects, from Erik Karlsson through Mika Zibanejad, Jakob Silfverberg and Robin Lehner.

It appears the Wings have won his services partly because of his rapport with countrymen Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen.

There are those in Ottawa who will surely turn their backs on Alfredsson, harrumphing that maybe he's more Gothenburg than Kanata after all (the online backlash is already in full swing).

It's impossible to think the 40-year-old, who is looking to embark on an 18th NHL season, arrived at his decision lightly.

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Officially, he's told the team he'd like an opportunity to win a Stanley Cup before he retires, but if that were the case, surely the offer from the Cup finalist Boston Bruins would have been more enticing?

Maybe he couldn't bring himself to play for a close regional rival, but there may also be things happening behind the scenes.

Owner Eugene Melnyk is not as flush with cash as he once was, as the Ottawa Citizen pointed out this week.

And while Alfredsson is apparently contending the move is not about money, it has to be, at least a little.

Perhaps it's also true that Alfredsson has concluded the Sens aren't particularly close to achieving playoff success – which will cast his infamous "probably not" comments about the likelihood of a comeback against the Pittsburgh Penguins six weeks ago in a new light.

So write it off as a mercenary act, petty treachery, ambition, weariness, whatever you like.

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The fact is, when a player and a man like Alfredsson can decide to set course for pastures new, it's all the evidence you need that anyone can and will do likewise.

It would be a shame of sorts if the last captain of his era were to undergo a swift transformation from hero to villain, but in a here-today-gone-tomorrow game, it would feel depressingly familiar.

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