For the fourth time in his career, talented goal scorer Dany Heatley has found himself on yet another new team. On July 3rd, 2011, the San Jose Sharks sent the skilled forward to the Minnesota Wild in a trade that landed Martin Havlat in return.
On paper, the trade made sense for the Sharks. Heatley was due $7.5 million over the next three seasons and the Sharks, concerned about salary cap restrictions, felt that it would be the right move to trade Heatley and his pricey contract in order to free up both the cash and options available therewith.
Additionally for the Sharks, there remained a question concerning Heatley's ability to perform during the postseason. Over the past few years, San Jose's expectations have been nothing short of winning a Stanley Cup. Dany Heatley was brought in to provide the Sharks with a dynamic goal scorer that could propel an already potent offense to the next level.
However, Heatley's postseason attributes in a Sharks sweater have been anything but dynamic.
In the two seasons he played with San Jose, Heatley notched a mere five goals. The Sharks played a total of six playoff series during that time frame and were obviously hoping for more out of one of their highest paid players.
Considering the Sharks already have depth with established forwards Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Ryane Clowe, along with a budding Logan Couture, the trade seemed to be a means to improve the Sharks' shortcomings elsewhere over the next three seasons.
What is not on paper however, may be the other rationale behind moving Heatley.
Heatley quickly emerged as one of the top young forwards in the game when he broke through with the Atlanta Thrashers in 2001. As a rookie, he notched 67 points earning him the Calder Memorial Trophy for best rookie of the year. He continued with Atlanta through 2005 and maintained a high level of play as an NHL superstar. Yet his tenure in Atlanta was shadowed by a car accident in 2003 that killed fellow teammate and friend Dan Snyder. Heatley was convicted of second degree vehicular homicide attributed to reckless driving.
The fallout from the incident had a profound effect on Heatley who felt that his playing in Atlanta would be forever haunted by the tragic accident. Before the NHL lockout that terminated the 2004-05 season, Heatley asked to be traded in an apparent effort to separate himself from the mental affects from Snyder's death.
Despite the sincerity of Heatley's request, many fans in Atlanta thought that Heatley conveniently used the accident as a means to get out of a franchise that continued to struggle. When Heatley was eventually traded to the Ottawa Senators in August 2005, some felt that Heatley owed a lot to the Thrashers franchise for being so supportive of him during the Snyder aftermath. When Ottawa came to play Atlanta during the regular season, Heatley was vehemently booed each time he took to the ice.
Regardless of his reception in Atlanta, Heatley enjoyed a number of successful years in Ottawa. He benefited from playing alongside fellow forwards Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson on a Senators team that seemed playoff bound each year during his tenure there. After a Stanley Cup finals appearance in 2008, Heatley signed a six-year extension worth $45 million seemingly locking him up for the long term in Ottawa.
Apparently, Heatley was not happy with his role on the team.
After only one year into the six-year deal, Heatley filed a trade request in June 2009. He cited that his role had been diminished, and that he could not get along with new Senators head coach Cory Clouston. The statement angered Ottawa fans who felt that Heatley's attitude was not fitting in to the dynamics of teamwork. Instead, he was viewed as selfish in spite of the large contract he was being paid.
Nonetheless, the Senators worked towards trading Heatley to a team of his liking. Initially, a trade was proposed that would send Heatley to the Edmonton Oilers. Refusing to waive his no-trade clause, Heatley snubbed the trade indicating that he only wanted to be traded to a top contender. This made him despised not only in Ottawa but in Edmonton as well.
Eventually, the Senators were able to work out a trade with San Jose, a team that Heatley considered a contender. Heatley's two-year tenure in San Jose was a mixed bag of results.
In his first year, Heatley continued to be a top scorer but failed to produce to expectations in the Sharks' playoff appearance that year. His second season proved to be the worst of his career offensively and it carried over into the Sharks' playoff return. Despite reoccurring injuries, the Sharks had to be questioning the value of Heatley and his contract.
Perhaps the Sharks also saw the writing on the wall.
Realizing that they still had an abundance of top forwards capable of carrying the offensive load, San Jose understood that Heatley already had a history of being a distraction in both the locker room and front office. His refusal to accept a diminished role in Ottawa could reveal signs of what may happen if his role was again diminished in San Jose. Along with the fiscal reasons for making the eventual trade that sent Heatley to Minnesota, the Sharks did not want to have anything to do with potential problems as they tried to close the gap towards a Stanley Cup championship.
Now, Dany Heatley finds himself in a Wild sweater. As reported by the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Heatley stated that the previous year was not his greatest playoff, and he was eager to return and prove people wrong.
However, the Wild have a much greater road to a championship than the Sharks had.
Heatley's role will certainly be more important than it was in San Jose, as the Wild are looking for a top forward to propel a stagnant offense that has prevented them from reaching the playoffs over the past three seasons. He will no longer have to play in the shadow of Joe Thornton but will also find himself lacking much of the support he enjoyed with the talent-abundant Sharks.
The question is just how long will Minnesota tenure their new acquisition. If Heatley can accept that the Wild are still progressing through a rebuilding phase, and it may take time for a legitimate playoff run, he may just find a long-term home with a single NHL franchise.
If the Wild can figure out how to continue this rebuilding process while paying Heatley his three-year, $7.5 million contract, they might just keep him around as well.
If history has shown anything however, it would be logical to assume that fans should expect Heatley to once again be moved to another team willing to take a chance on him and his personality.