Hey, at least Dany Heatley didn’t bail out on his team this time. Come to think of it, though, with just five goals in 32 playoff games over the past two seasons, you could certainly make that case pretty easily.
And that latter bit of information is essentially why San Jose Sharks GM Doug Wilson pulled off his second blockbuster trade in nine days - both with the same team, coincidentally - when he traded the now much-travelled Heatley to the Minnesota Wild for Martin Havlat.
Wilson could have looked at the fact the Sharks are the only team in the NHL to make the final four both of the past two seasons. He could have been content with that and he could have hoped his team would do something to get itself over the hump. But in the end, Wilson almost certainly came to the realization that Heatley gave his team what it already had in abundance (size and offensive ability) and not enough of what it needed (consistency and playoff jam).
Before Heatley arrived in San Jose, they were a great regular season team and a playoff bust. In the two years he was there, they were a great regular season team that was only slightly better in the playoffs. And what was worse was they had become far too predictable. Much of their offensive scheme centered around getting the puck deep into the opposing team’s end and using their big bodies to cycle it endlessly until an opportunity opened up down low. Even when the players are as big and as good as they were in San Jose, it becomes much easier to defend that kind of offensive scheme if you know it’s coming.
That will all change for the Sharks now that they have Havlat’s speed and puckhandling to go along with the offensive thrust from the back end they acquired when they picked up Brent Burns from the Wild for Devin Setoguchi on draft day.
As for the Wild, are they better off with Setoguchi and Heatley than they were with Burns and Havlat? If Heatley can be healthy and motivated, again, there is absolutely no doubt the Wild got the best player in the deal. But that’s an enormous if when it comes to one of the most enigmatic talents in the NHL. To be sure, the Wild should be able to create more offense this season, which will be a huge boost to the team that finished fifth-last in scoring this season. If he’s happy and healthy, a minimum of 40 goals for Heatley is like money in the bank and the Wild certainly should be able to coax at least 30 out of Setoguchi. Playing with this kind of talent should also bring out the best in the oft-injured Pierre-Marc Bouchard.
Heatley has three years left on his contract at a cap hit of $7.5 million per season and Havlat has four years remaining at $5 million per season. Some will undoubtedly view this deal as San Jose getting rid of its $7.5 million underachiever and getting a $5 million underachiever in return and, when it’s all said and done, it could possibly all end up that way.
But as Havlat proved when he was in Chicago, he is a much more productive player when he plays with more talented players. And while that pretty much goes for every other player in the NHL, Havlat is clearly not the kind of player who carries others, the way Joe Thornton is capable of doing. Havlat is more of a wave rider and the waves have the potential to be a lot bigger in San Jose.
Heatley and Setoguchi, meanwhile, give the Wild some size and skill and make them potentially a much more difficult team to defend. And, if things work out with Burns the way Wilson hopes they will, the Sharks will be able to use the extra cap space they got in the Havlat-Heatley deal to sign Burns before he becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer.
Both sides took a risk on this one, but as it should be in a good blockbuster trade, both teams gave themselves a real chance to get better as well.
Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com with his column.
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