He saw a Ottawa Senators team that made the playoffs and the long-term potential of a young core, and came to the realization it wasn't the right fit for him.
As he chased a Stanley Cup, the 40-year-old figured spending his 18th season with the Detroit Red Wings would give him a better chance.
"I had not won a Stanley Cup and that's a big priority for me," Alfredsson said. "With Ottawa, I think they're getting closer and closer or definitely going in the right direction and has a really bright future in front of them, but at this stage of career there's not much left. I don't have the time to wait for that."
Alfredsson only had to wait until Friday afternoon to sign a one-year deal with the Red Wings that will pay him US$3.5 million and includes performance bonuses that could make it worth as much as $5.5 million.
Senators general manager Bryan Murray spoke to Alfredsson's agent, J.P. Barry, negotiated monetary terms once in person in New York last weekend and then talked a few times over the phone.
Alfredsson indicated it wasn't about the money. He and Barry spoke with Detroit GM Ken Holland and coach Mike Babcock for 45 minutes Thursday and not long after that informed the Senators he wasn't coming back to the place he served as captain for 14 seasons.
"I think the easiest thing for me would be just to stay in Ottawa, enjoy my last year there and retire an Ottawa Senator," Alfredsson said. "It probably would've been a great ending as well, but it's the ultimate prize and I'm a competitive person. I wouldn't have felt the same drive, I think, in terms of just trying to be the mentor and play it out. Ottawa is going to be a good team next year, as well. I felt I needed a different challenge to do this."
Alfredsson said he didn't want to demand a win-now approach from Murray or owner Eugene Melynk.
"I think they have too many good things going on, they should stay the course in what they're going there," he said. "The torch is going to have to be passed one time pretty soon anyway. That's pretty much my reasoning for deciding to go and look somewhere else, for a team that has a lot of guys that's been there before."
Alfredsson's decision reportedly came down to the Red Wings and the Boston Bruins. Detroit hasn't reached the conference final since 2009, when it lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup final, and hasn't won since 2008. The Bruins were Cup champions in 2011 and were just recently runners-up to the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Senators were eliminated in the same round as the Red Wings in the 2013 playoffs, but Alfredsson liked what he heard about playing in Detroit from Henrik Zetterberg. He will join Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Mikael Samuelsson, Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson as Swedish Red Wings players.
"I just really like the way Detroit plays hockey: It's a puck-possession game, it's a push-the-pace game," Alfredsson said. "I just think with the personnel they have throughout their lineup, I could come in and be of help in different areas and be part of something really good. I know quite a few of the guys from before, I know their personalities, I know how they play and the culture of Detroit really appealed to me from all the conversations I've had with different players that's been there."
Murray said he had a conversation with Alfredsson last week in which he told the veteran right-winger about a trade in the works to acquire Bobby Ryan from the Anaheim Ducks. The Senators pulled the trigger on that deal Friday, giving up Jakob Silfverberg, prospect Stefan Noesen and a 2014 first-round pick, but only after Alfredsson already made up his mind about going to the Red Wings.
The decision didn't happen quickly, as Alfredsson said a week ago he would've planned to go back to Ottawa. Even Holland was surprised.
"I really expected to kind of get a response that he was going to stay in Ottawa and J.P. said Daniel was taking some time with his family and was considering talking to some teams and explore what's out there," Holland said. "A lot of this has happened fast."
It all happened, Alfredsson said, because he made only one trip to the Cup final in 17 seasons and needed a change. He considered his legacy in Ottawa in his decision-making process, but a player praised for his leadership ultimately opted to think of himself.
"This is purely a situation to me where this is about me," he said. "This is the decision I make for myself, not for anybody else. It's all about trying to get the Stanley Cup."