The writing was on the wall during the offseason. Martin Havlat was on the outs in San Jose, and among the team’s management, after a longer-than-expected return to the ice from offseason pelvic surgery. The inconsistent production when he was actually healthy on the ice wasn’t helping either.
The Sharks were unsure as of June whether or not the 32-year-old it gave up Dany Heatley for back in July 2011 would ever play again in teal.
Havlat did return, though—maybe sooner than expected—but the dismal on-ice production remains the same (one goal and one assist in nine games this season) on a team that coincidentally was rolling until he was placed on the third line on October 30.
On Friday, Havlat was a healthy scratch after scoring points in just one of seven games since his return. He was demoted to the fourth line on Sunday against the Blackhawks.
The Sharks still owe him $11 million over the next two seasons, and any return in a trade would be welcome to a team that presumably would not entertain the idea of bringing him back after his contract is up.
But as Havlat’s agent mentioned via Twitter, his client still has a No Move Clause—a part of the contract it sounds like they plan on using if need be.
Is trading Havlat the best move for this franchise, though?
Although teams are reportedly interested, the Sharks would presumably be taking a loss in whatever return they receive.
Keeping the veteran on the roster at least until the trade deadline would allow San Jose to fully understand what kind of a player they have in Havlat and what kind of role he can play on this team.
General manager Doug Wilson (per CSN Bay Area’s Kevin Kurz) sounds like he is giving him a chance to prove himself.
“Marty is a very talented player, and we have some very talented forwards … It creates competition,” Wilson said. “As a player, once you’re back healthy, you have to earn your opportunity and ice time, and that’s the way this game is.”
“He went through an injury that was very frustrating to everybody involved, had the procedure, and now he’s back at 100 percent and playing. And, there’s competition,” Wilson said, mentioning players like Brent Burns, Tomas Hertl and Matt Nieto. “That’s what good teams want. He’s going to have to compete. That’s really what it is. Sometimes, that's beneficial to a team.”
The Sharks have a solid group of players even without Havlat, but adding the production he showed in spurts during his time in San Jose could prove to be useful as the season draws to a close and the team enters the playoffs.
If the Sharks were to ever get the old and reliable Havlat back on the ice and producing nightly, San Jose would be that much more dangerous in the Western Conference.
He still fits into the system the Sharks are promoting these days with his speed and puck-handling abilities, and the mere chance all those attributes could return to a third line with not many better options is tempting.
Havlat is worth keeping around, based solely on the fact that it is too early in the season to give up on a player with his potential abilities. But the clock is ticking on Havlat’s chance to prove himself to the Sharks and the NHL.
Will San Jose ever see the much-anticipated potential abilities of Havlat?
It sounds like the Sharks’ brass is willing to find out, at least for now.
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