Late in the afternoon on Sunday, news hit the Twitter universe that the San Jose Sharks had traded their highly criticized star winger Dany Heatley to the Minnesota Wild. First receiving the news from a source via text, yours truly shrugged it off as a hoax, but sure enough the reports were true and Heatley is no longer a Shark.
Clearly the primary thought that enters the mind is why would any GM would choose to take on Heatley’s contract and historical baggage after he posted career-low point totals last season. Not only that, but the former two-time 50-goal scorer deposited just five playoff goals in 32 playoff games for the Sharks, nowhere close to the expected goal production for an All-Star winger with a $7.5 million dollar cap hit.
While Heatley did play through a groin injury in the 2010 playoffs and through a broken hand this past season, San Jose simply needed better production for their investment, especially in the playoffs. Typically a player of his caliber would be a fan favorite amongst his fan base but Heatley was not popular with the fans in San Jose, not by any stretch. A majority of those fans have told me that they like the trade and are glad to see Heatley moved to another team.
It probably can’t get much clearer than that. Despite having world-class skills, Heatley’s all-around play just didn’t win over the hearts of fans and obviously the coaching and management staff saw fit to trade him away only two years after acquiring him.
Considering his steep cap hit, one would hope Heatley to be consistent to a minimum amount of goals and points in both the regular season and playoff. Unfortunately, since his back-to-back 50 goal, 100 point seasons in 2005-06 and 2006-07, Heatley hasn’t come anywhere close to a similar caliber season.
Of course 70-80 point seasons are nothing to sneeze at, but realistically speaking, at this point in Heatley’s career an 80-85 point season would be his ceiling. He’s not going to score 50 goals anymore or put 100 points, those days are long gone. A great bounce back year with Minnesota and there’s a chance he get’s back into the 80′s but even if he were to do exactly that, San Jose still get’s the better end of this trade.
In this one-for-one deal, the Sharks acquired All-Star winger Martin Havlat. Like Heatley, Havlat has had injury issues in the past and clearly he has had a few of the more significant variety. In 2005-06 he played in just 18 games and in 2006-07 managed just 35 games.
However, Havlat has been healthy enough to play in at least 73 games over the past three regular seasons and in his last two playoff appearances combined, averaged more than a point per game. Known for his blazing fast skating ability and quality playoff performances, you could say he is the exact opposite of Heatley in more ways than one.
As for how Havlat will fair in San Jose? Well if all else remains equal and both Heatley and Havlat remain healthy enough to contribute all year long and all playoff long, it is hard to see how the Sharks don’t get the better end of this deal.
Havlat may not have the point totals racked up that Heatley does but his career high in points (77) is only a few shy of Heatley’s point ceiling the last few years and there is without a doubt a possibility of Havlat outscoring Heatley next season. Definitely not a possibility worth banking on, but a possibility nonetheless.
Breaking this deal down, it is a clear win for San Jose for many different reasons.
First and foremost, if Havlat plays a full season, you can be assured of a minimum of 6o points. And let’s say that’s where he ends up at the end of the regular season. Let’s also say that Heatley has a bounce back year with Minnesota and finishes with 80 points.
Adding in the fact Havlat is known for being a much better all around forward, one much more committed to defensive zone coverage and the bit more offense from Heatley is nearly canceled out.
But what puts this deal over the top for San Jose is that they save $2.5 million dollars of cap room as Havlat’s cap hit comes in at $5.0 million. The money saved will be twofold for the Sharks.
Not only does it give them the ability to add another free agent forward with scoring pop for this upcoming season, but assuming they bring in a player on a one-year deal, that means the money coming off the books next season will help them re-sign both Brent Burns and Logan Couture to new contracts.
According to our friends at CapGeek.com, the Sharks now have a little bit under $6.2 million worth of cap room for this year. More than enough to add a Jason Arnott or Jamie Langenbrunner to the fold for a one-year deal. And come next season, that 6.2 will increase to nearly $10 million when Antero Niittymaki and Torrey Mitchell’s contracts expire.
This deal clearly is more than just bringing aboard a top-six speed threat in exchange for an under-performing sniper, it’s about adding as much talent as possible for another Stanley Cup run this year and in the years to follow by gaining enough cap room to re-sign two young studs who will be stars in this league for years to come.
Chalk up another win for Sharks GM Doug Wilson.