In the summer of 2009, I doubt anyone envied the job of Ottawa Senators' general manager Bryan Murray.
The GM was essentially taken hostage by his star player, Dany Heatley, who demanded a trade for no apparent reason. Rumors speculated from basic reasons such as him being unhappy with head coach Cory Clouston, to Heatley sleeping with the fiancee (now wife) of teammate Jason Spezza.
Adding into the confusion was the fact that despite demanding a trade, Heatley still held on to his no-trade clause, in other words giving him control of where he would travel to.
Perhaps even more unfortunately for Murray, the three-time all-star winger was coming off a year where he had his lowest points total since joining the Senators in 2005, putting up 72 over a full season of 82 games.
Murray finally was able to swing a deal with Edmonton at the end of June, but Heatley was quick to decline it, refusing to waive his no-trade clause.
Murray was running out of time, and many suspected that he would simply not come up with a deal and Heatley would be forced to honour his contract, whether he wanted to or not.
Then, in September, with the seasons weeks away, Murray struck up a deal with the San Jose Sharks for Milan Michalek, Jonathan Cheechoo and a second-round draft pick for Heatley and a fifth-rounder.
Heatley became a villain in Ottawa and Edmonton, as well as much of Canada for his betrayal of his former team.
Nevertheless, Heatley went on to put up a point a game while playing in all 82 matches for the Sharks, while Michalek and Cheechoo combined for just 48. By the end of the season, Cheechoo even found himself sent down to Binghamton for the final 25 games of the AHL season.
Cheechoo's fourteen points was a significant drop from just years before when he was putting up 93 (2005-06) and 69 (2006-07).
Aside from being forced to trade away arguably their best player, the Sens were also forced to pay $4 million of Heatley's $8 million contract for this past season.
Success can easily be measured by the playoffs, and Ottawa definitely got the worse hand in that respect. Cheechoo was recalled for just two games in the first-round, which saw the Senators beaten by the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games, while Michalek didn't play at all due to injury.
Heatley on the other hand finds himself two games up on the Detroit Red Wings in the second round of the post-season, with nine points in seven games.
So, now that things have played themselves out for Ottawa, the question must be raised. Would it have been better for the Senators to keep Heatley, arguably more hated in Ottawa than even Alexei Yashin, and force him to honour his contract in spite of his happiness until a new deal could be reached?
Or was his uncertainty for a successful season with the club as well as his sheer disrespect to the team and the city too much, and therefore Murray had no choice but to trade him for the good of the team?
What would you have done?
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