This weekend, the Ottawa Senators traded disgruntled problem child, Dany Heatley along with a 5th round pick to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for Milan Michalek, Jonathan Cheechoo and a 2nd round pick.
The Contracts' Value in a Cap World
First, let's look at the contracts. Heatley is signed, I believe for 5 more years at an annual hit of $7.5 million. Michalek is $3.5 million for 4 years and Cheechoo is $3 million for 2 years. Basically a wash, cap wise, EXCEPT that the if things don't pan out, the Sens are out of Cheech in 2 years and left with Michalek's hit of $3.5 for another 2. The Sharks, win, lose or draw, are stuck with Heatley for 5 years at $7.5 million with no relief in sight. He will never be able to be traded again. He pushed his luck this time and 3 strikes, you're out. No one will want him should he ask for another trade. Michalek's contract is actually quite good for what he brings to the table: speed, 25 goals/60 points on a consistent basis to go along with excellent 2 way play. He also has youth on his side at age 24. This may be debatable, but he alone may have been worth getting rid of Heatley. Sure, his goal totals are roughly half that of Heater, but so is his price tag. He may also improve with age as he has yet to hit his prime. He could be dynamite alongside Kovalev.
Cheechoo is the wild card here. After a 56 goal/93 point Rocket Richard Trophy winning season in 2005-2006, his goal totals have dropped to 37, 23 and 12 last season. Apparently, however, late in his 37 goal season, he began having sports hernia trouble that he tried to play through being the tough competitor and team guy that he is. That decision only hurt him in the long run as he production suffered.
In 2007-2008 he struggled to hit 23 goals while battling the injury bug. Last season was a disaster. The offseason "fix" didn't seem to take and he was relegated to the 3rd line while missing significant time early in the season as well as late in the season. According to reports, his main issue of the sports hernia has been addressed and he is feeling great for the upcoming season. Watch for the Sens to try him with Spezza to see if he can still be a trigger man for an elite playmaker as he was with Joe Thorton in San Jose. If healthy, I see him netting 30 plus goals for Ottawa while playing with grit and passion. I can also see him thriving under coach Cory Clouston's aggressive forecheck system.
People talk about Cheechoo "declining" but this is mostly due to injury and being miscast on the third line. We should also not that Heatley's totals have been declining as well since his back to back 50 goal seasons.
Where Do They Fit?
OK, we all know Princess Heatley will play along side Joe Thorton on the Sharks top line. Enough said on that. We wouldn't want Dany to feel like his role is going to be diminished before he gets there.
On the Sens side, magically, all of the sudden, they have depth up front and are much more than a one line team flanked by a one trick pony.
I could see Cheechoo playing on the right side on Spezza with Michalek possibly flanking the left side. The Sens will want to showcase their new acquisitions early on and this will give them every chance to succeed. If they struggle, Alfie and possibly Foligno could be slid in to help out.
On the second line, I see Mike Fisher along with Kovalev and perhaps Shannon. I would like to see Fisher go in on the forecheck and start the play for Shannon and Kovalev while parking himself in front of the opposing net.
The third and fourth lines could get interesting with rookies Peter Regin, Zack Smith and Cody Bass all chomping at the big league bit and all listed as centermen.
Basically, the Senators have a forward group of:
Michalek - Spezza - Cheechoo
Foligno - Fisher - Kovalev
Shannon - Smith - Alfredsson
Ruutu - Bass - Neil
I know, I know. Alfie on the 3rd line???? Well, he isn't getting any younger and the grind of the long season will start to take a toll on him. Same goes for Kovalev. Watch for coach Cory to give even ice time to the 2nd and 3rd line if not roll 3 dangerous lines with almost equal frequency. Alfie was doing all the grunt work for Spezza and the incredibly lazy sniper, Heatley. By rotating him with Kovalev and playing with either Fisher or Smith who can do the dirty work, Captain Alfie is free to quarterback things and play a more positional game, getting himself open in the sweet spot for the one timer. Alfie and Kovy will also make up ice time on the power play.
Just noticing how tough this line up looks down the middle (I know even Giggles has been known to goon it up lately)and that fourth line looks just ugly to play against yet has a little skill to go along with it.
Watch for Chris Kelly to be dealt.
I'm also going to go out on a limb here and say that this roster is a playoff club and could actually do some damage once they get there. Some big "IFs" come in to play here. IF LeClaire regains his form. IF Cheechoo is healthy and regains even half of his 56 goal pinnacle and IF Michalek moves a little closer to his potential, this will be a good "team". This is a balanced team that boasts seven players who have had season of at or around 20 goals. You wanted balanced and secondary scoring, Sens fans? You've got it.
I'll post a more detailed season forecast once rosters get finalized after training camp.