By Stu Hackel
Monday 1:30 AM – The second trade completed Sunday was a big one, and also the second in nine days between the Wild and Sharks as Minnesota ships Martin Havlat to San Jose in exchange for Dany Heatley in a swap of top wingers. Unlike Sunday’s earlier deal — but like the June trade in which the Sharks got Brent Burns for Devin Setoguchi, collegian Charlie Coyle and a first round draft pick (which became Zach Phillips) — this looks to be more of a hockey trade than one motivated purely by the salary cap or any fiscal situations.
This trade is a move by both teams to improve their offensive chemistry, but in different ways. The Wild plainly need to score goals and Heatley is a goal scorer who, despite declining production, still has a lethal shot, good size and the ability to play well on the cycle. The Sharks need to improve their team speed among their top forwards and Havlat gives them that. He’s an excellent skater who makes very creative plays and is responsible defensively. He’ll likely take Setoguchi’s spot on Joe Thornton’s right wing.
Theoretically, Heatley could play on a potent top line with Setoguchi centered by Mikko Koivu, although one of those wingers would have to switch to the left side. Heatley is a lefthanded shot, but plays the right side, where Setoguchi took his spot on the Sharks’ Big Three line with Thornton and Patrick Marleau. It could be they’ll play on different lines in Minny but, in any case, with these deals GM Chuck Fletcher has moved to inject offense into his team that for its entire history has struggled to score goals.
A two-time 50-goal scorer when he played for Ottawa, Heatley clearly has had issues keeping pace in the ever-faster NHL as his production recently dipped from two straight years of 39 goals to 26; his meager playoff performance resulted in just three goals in 18 games last spring and a slide down the Sharks depth chart. The reason for the decline was said to be a broken left hand that Heatley reportedly suffered sometime during the season, although the details of that have never been spelled out. GM Doug Wilson said Sunday Heatley played with the bad paw for the last month and a half and didn’t tell anyone about it, but that wouldn’t explain his lack of production prior to that. He only missed two games during the regular season and they were the result of a suspension for an elbow to the head of Dallas’ Steve Ott.
The risk for the Wild is whether Heatley’s decline is irreversible. The risk for the Sharks is whether Havlat can stay healthy. He had a history of injuries earlier in his career but, in the last three seasons, he’s only missed 14 total games.
It appears the Sharks may have initiated this deal. “Marty is a player that we have had an interest in for a long time,” Sharks GM Doug Wilson said in a statement announcing the deal. “When we made the Brent Burns trade, we knew we still needed to address our speed up front and we think the acquisition of Marty does that.” He later stated that the Sharks had traded some speed up front in Setochuchi when they made the Burns deal, so needed to get it back.
Havlat had to waive a no-movement clause for the deal to go through, and he did for the chance to play with a perennial playoff club. He’s only been to the post season twice since the lockout and excelled both times. Michael Russo of The Minneapolis Star-Tribune tweeted tonight that Havlat and the Wild had discussed waiving the NMC for about a month, although Havlat said he didn’t expect this deal. Heatley did not have a similar clause but he had a list of 10 teams to which he would not accept a trade and Minnesota, apparently, was not on that list. But David Pollak of The San Jose Mercury News tweeted tonight that he believes Heatley “didn’t see it coming.”
The finances of the deal read this way: Heatley has three years remaining on his deal that carries a cap hit of $7.5 million. Havlat has four years left and a cap hit of $5 million. The Sharks save $2.5 mil a year and gain an extra season. Both players are 30 years old.
And both these guys have a history of controversy, some of it coming at this time of year.
This will be the fourth team for Heatley, whose reputation, valid or not, is not among the best in the NHL. He began his career in Atlanta, but asked to be moved in the wake of his deadly automobile accident in September 2003 in which teammate Dan Snyder was fatally injured. He plead guilty to vehicular homicide. He was traded to Ottawa for Marian Hossa and Greg de Vries after the lockout in the summer of 2005. He later requested a trade from the Senators following the 2009 season, just one year into a new six-year contract that paid him an average of $7.5 million. Heatley was unhappy with his lack of power play time under Coach Cory Clouston. When GM Bryan Murray, who said he was “blindsided” by Heatley’s request, negotiated a deal with Edmonton, Heatley invoked his no-trade clause and forced Murray to make a less favorable deal with the Sharks.
Havlat also has played for Ottawa (and he was Heatley’s teammate there for one season) as well as the Blackhawks before moving to Minnesota as a free agent two years ago. The Senators traded him after the 2005-06 campaign when he informed them he only wanted a one-year deal so he could explore free agency at its conclusion. In Chicago, he was team MVP in 2008-09, but couldn’t reach a long-term agreement on a new deal. The Hawks eventually pulled that proposal off the table, offering only a one-year extension, then signed Hossa as a free agent, forcing Havlat to sign with the Wild, a scenario Havlat blasted on his Twitter account, saying “I didn’t leave Chicago, it left me.” and “There’s something to be said for loyalty and honor.” He publicly blamed Hawks President John McDonough, who he accused of trying to subvert GM Dale Tallon, and shortly afterward, Tallon was dismissed as GM.
We’ll continue adding to this post throughout the long weekend so keep checking back periodically for the latest updates. Enjoy the holiday.