Jul 3, 2011, 11:45 PM EDT
Apparently the San Jose Sharks and Minnesota Wild decided to shoot a sequel to their blockbuster trade that sent Devin Setoguchi, a prospect and some picks to Minnesota Brent Burns. The sequel might even be better than the original as the Sharks raised eyebrows by trading the polarizing sniper to the Wild for Martin Havlat.
I had a strange feeling* that the Sharks had the urge to get rid of Heatley’s massive $7.5 million cap hit after a rough (though to his credit, injury-ravaged) playoff run, but most people were justifiably stunned by this trade. The NHL’s rumor mill receives a lot of criticisms – and most of them are fair – but most of the time, it’s reasonably easy to see certain trades coming. Let’s face it; there were even rumors that Mike Richards and Jeff Carter might be on their way out of Philly before those still-shocking trades happened. That really wasn’t the case with Heatley and the Sharks, but they pulled the trigger tonight.
Dany Heatley: the NHL’s journeyman 50-goal scorer?
It’s tough for many to empathize with a controversial figure like Heatley, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he was blindsided by this trade. That being said, being traded is far from a new thing for Heatley.
The Atlanta Thrashers traded him to the Ottawa Senators before the 2005-06 season, in part to help Heatley and the organization move on from Dan Snyder’s tragic death. The Thrashers received a nice return that included Marian Hossa, but Heatley’s career really took off when he lined up with Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson in Ottawa. Things grew sour once the honeymoon period ended and Heatley clashed with then-coach Cory Clouston, leading Heatley to ask for a trade. Heatley notoriously refused to accept a deal that would send him to the Edmonton Oilers before he finally found his way to the Sharks.
Some might say that there’s some karmatic payback if Heatley didn’t see this one coming, although he cannot be too angry with the deal. TSN’s Darren Dreger reveals that Heatley had a “modified” no-trade clause that kept him from being moved to 10 different teams and the Wild apparently weren’t on that list. In other words, Minnesota ranked somewhere in the top 20 of Heatley’s favorite NHL destinations.
Heatley continues Minnesota’s metamorphosis into a scoring machine
During the last two or three seasons, the Wild’s transition from the shackles of Jacques Lemaire’s trap-based system to their more offense-minded regime seemed as messy and painful as a man turning into a werewolf (warning: link might be NSFW).
Adding Heatley and Setoguchi should help Minnesota’s offense reach a higher level. While Heatley brings that significant $7.5 million price tag, he’s one of the most legitimate goal scorers in the league right now. His 2010-11 season was underwhelming by his standards (“just” 26 goals), but he’s hit the 50-goal mark twice, scored 41 goals two other times and has two more 39-goal seasons on his resume. You won’t find a more reliable goal scorer beyond Ilya Kovalchuk and Alex Ovechkin. It will be interesting to see if he can hit those levels without an all-world passer such as Spezza or Joe Thornton by his side, though.
(Not that Mikko Koivu is chopped liver, mind you.)
What Martin Havlat brings to San Jose
It’s easy for Havlat to get lost in all the hubbub about Heatley, but he’s a talented player in his own right. No Wild player scored more than Havlat’s 62 points in 2010-11 (and Heatley only scored 64 with the Sharks). Havlat is a one-timer 30-goal scorer and scored 20 goals or more five other times while being fairly close to a point-per-game player (.82 points per game). Havlat also comes at a more affordable price, registering a $5 million annual cap hit through 2014-15 while Heatley’s $7.5 million hit expires in 2013-14.
That being said, Havlat is a downgrade from Heatley, at least when you consider the two players’ peak potential. Heatley has two 100+ point seasons to his credit while Havlat never even had 70 points in a single season.
The biggest concern with Havlat is his health, though. He only played 18 regular season games for Ottawa in 05-06 and missed huge chunks of seasons once he signed a deal with the Chicago Blackhawks. On the bright side, Havlat only missed four games last season, nine in 09-10 and one in 08-09, so maybe he turned that corner. His fragility remains a lingering worry nonetheless.
It’s a startling deal. When combined with the Burns trade, it should make San Jose-Minnesota games awfully interesting next season. The Wild get a big but expensive upgrade while the Sharks save $2.5 million and still get a talented player who has injury concerns and a lower ceiling. Don’t be surprised if these teams decide which side really “won” their two big trades during a seven-game playoff series in 2012, either.
* – Thanks to the the people who brought Dany Heatley’s contract situation to my attention. I originally wondered why Heatley wasn’t involved in the Burns trade, but apparently clauses in his contract prohibited him from being traded before July 1.
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