But in a deal that surprised a lot of fans, the Anaheim Ducks signed Heatley in early July to a one-year contract that will likely have him playing the left-wing spot on the team's top scoring line alongside Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.
"My job is to get in shape and be ready to play with those two guys,” Heatley told reporters.
Had the same signing occurred in 2010, Ducks fans would have been building statues and altars all across California to honor general manager Bob Murray.
However, coming off a season during which Heatley so heavily regressed (28 points, minus-18 in 76 games) that he was at times a healthy scratch in Minnesota, even a low-risk deal isn't sitting well with some of Anaheim's fanbase.
Nevertheless, the argument can and should be made that the Heatley signing is an excellent move for the Ducks as an organization.
It's a shrewd signing by Murray that is likely to pay dividends for a number of reasons—even if Heatley doesn't score 50 goals this year.
Heatley Came Cheap
For a player of Heatley's offensive pedigree—he's posted four 40-plus-goal seasons in his career—he came extremely cheap.
At $1 million for one year, CapGeek.com indicates he's making less than Matt Beleskey and Nate Thompson, who don't have skill or a resume that's even comparable to Heatley's. That's a low-risk investment in a player that still has plenty of offensive upside.
Even if he continues to regress, Anaheim loses little and can simply let him walk after his one-year deal is up.
Perspective on 2 Bad Seasons
Like most major sports, the NHL operates on a "What have you done for me lately?" basis.
In reality, two bad seasons don't erase a decorated offensive career.
If Minnesota was just a bad fit for Heatley, he wouldn't be the first player to play poorly after jumping teams. Teemu Selanne's production dropped significantly during his time in San Jose and Colorado before eventually re-signing with Anaheim.
With a player of Heatley's skill level, it's likelier that he was in a similar situation with the Wild.
If the Ducks are a better fit, he could easily recapture his scoring touch.
Potential with Getzlaf and Perry
That fit will likely come alongside two of hockey's best offensive players in Getzlaf and Perry.
If they can continue to play their power game and cycle the puck in the corners, Heatley could be the type of player they need to get open and make himself available for Getzlaf's strong passing.
Add Perry's disruptive play in front of the net, and you've got a line that would be extremely difficult to defend.
He's Still Young
At 33 years old, Heatley should be in his prime physically—or at least on the tail end of it. That means it's far too early for us to say that he doesn't have anything left to give.
Even the "plenty left in the tank" notion is an odd one to be applying to him right now. That's what you say about players creeping up on 40, not 33. Jaromir Jagr or Sergei Gonchar might have "plenty left in the tank," but Heatley shouldn't be in that conversation yet.
It's premature to assume that he can't turn his career around and get back to at least respectable offensive numbers.
All About Upside
There is simply no way that Anaheim loses when it comes to the Heatley deal.
Murray added a big chunk of offensive upside to the Anaheim roster, and he did so for pocket change in professional sports currency.
He's the reigning GM of the year for a reason, so we can put at least a reasonable amount of trust in his judgment and hope for the best Heatley has left to come out in a Ducks uniform.
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