OTTAWA – What was unthinkable for Senators fans just a few days ago, has happened.

Senators Captain Daniel Alfredsson is leaving the Ottawa Senators after 17 seasons. Alfredsson signed a one-year, $5.5 million contract with the Red Wings, just minutes after becoming a free agent.

Alfredsson has played all 1,178 games of his NHL career with the Senators, putting up 426 goals and 682 assists.

The 40-year-old right wing joins fellow Swedes Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Mikael Samuelsson, Niklas Kronwall and Jonathan Ericsson in Detroit.

Alfredsson said at the end of the season that the one thing he had yet to accomplish was win a Stanley Cup. The Red Wings were eliminated in the conference semifinals just like the Senators but won the Cup in 2008.

Alfredsson only recently told the Senators he would play the 2013-14 season instead of retiring. Ottawa general manager Bryan Murray seemed so confident Alfredsson would return that he said in a statement in late June that the long-time captain was “committed to play next year for the Senators.”

Instead, he’ll be playing for the Red Wings.

Fan reaction

Senators fans were in disbelief, Friday afternoon, at the news their captain was leaving town.

“I never thought that would ever happen,” said one Sens fan at the Bell Sensplex. “I thought for sure he would finish his career here.”

“He belongs here; he doesn’t belong anywhere else,” said another fan. “I can’t picture him wearing any other jersey besides the Sens uniform.”

Some Alfie supporters are taking the move like a break-up — actually shedding a few tears. Others are staying stoic, and wish Alfie the best.

“It’s a sad day, because Alfie’s done a lot of great in our city, both on and off the ice,” Mayor Jim Watson said.

“I know even after he retires, he’s going to be a great contributor to whatever community he lives in,” Watson added. “He’s that kind of person; he’s an individual who cares about his team, obviously, but also about his community.”

Mayor Watson noted, Alfredsson had attached his name to many good causes in Ottawa, including CHEO and mental health initiatives.

But many in the Sens Army are now wondering what to do with their number 11 jersey.