By Mark “The Hard Hitter” Ritter
The deal that seemingly took a decade to complete is finally official. The Ottawa Senators traded Dany Heatley and a fifth-round pick to the San Jose Sharks for former 56-goal scorer Jonathan Cheechoo (2005-06), Milan Michalek, and a second-round pick in 2010.
For Ottawa, it ends a long drawn-out saga that was sure to be a huge distraction at training camp and beyond. Sure, trading a player of Heatley’s talent will hurt, but the alternative of keeping him in Ottawa was never really an option.
In Michalek the Senators add a player that can come in and play on Ottawa’s first or second line. Michalek, who is 24 years old, is a tremendous skater and unafraid to play an aggressive, hard-hitting game (he had 92 hits last season). He has scored 23 (2008-09), 24 (2007-08) and 26 (2006-07) goals over the past three seasons in San Jose, which is very consistent, and he is an impressive plus-47 over that same time span.
Cheechoo, who is just 29 years old, was in need of a change in scenery. The 2008-09 season saw Cheechoo on the sidelines with numerous lower and upper body injuries, and his 12-goal total was his lowest since his rookie year in 2002-03, when he scored nine goals in 66 games, the same amount of games he played in '08-09. Cheechoo scored 56 goals in 2005-06, but he has struggled since, scoring 37 goals in 2006-07, 23 in 2007-08, and 12 in 2008-09.
Combined, Cheechoo and Michalek scored 35 goals last season, which is four less than Heatley managed on his own. Clearly, Michalek and Cheechoo can make up for Heatley’s loss, not to mention provide Ottawa with some much needed depth.
As for Heatley, who is 28 years old, he goes to the team that he wanted to go to, the San Jose Sharks. Heatley will get an opportunity to play with Joe Thornton, arguably the best setup man in hockey. The tandem should make for a formidable pair. Clearly, a second 50-goal season is not out of the question for Heatley.
"I'm excited, obviously; I'm excited to be a Shark,'' Heatley said in a statement he released Saturday. ''I want to thank everyone in Ottawa—the organization, the fans, and the city. I had a great four years here, (and) I'm happy to move on.”
Given the pressure that was on Ottawa general manager Bryan Murray to trade Heatley, I think he came away with a great deal for the Senators. He adds two very good players and rids the franchise of a player that wasn’t willing to be a team player. In the end, the Heatley trade is addition by subtraction; Sens fans should be thrilled that this debacle is over and at the fact that they probably just got better as a team.
Financially, the trade is a wash. Cheechoo has two years remaining on his contract with a $3 million cap hit per season. Michalek has five years remaining on his contract with a $4.3 million cap hit per season, and Heatley has four years remaining on his contract with a $7.5 million cap hit per season.
So who won the deal?
From my point of view, the Senators did well here. Cheechoo has great upside, and Michalek should be a very strong addition to the Sens organization. Trading Heatley to the Western Conference means the Senators have minimized the risk of Heatley coming back to haunt them, not to mention they got rid of a player who had a crappy attitude! The second-round draft choice is icing on the cake.
That said, you cannot underestimate the contributions that Heatley had made to the Senators. He is very capable of scoring 50 goals, and that’s tough to replace.
From San Jose’s perspective, they a player that will feed off the talents of Joe—again, 50 goals is a very reasonable expectation. Heatley is a world-class scoring threat, and, with the Sharks inability to score in the playoffs, Heatley’s talents will be welcomed with open arms.
I think it is safe to say that Heatley’s attitude will change for the better. Clearly, Heatley wanted out of Ottawa, and San Jose is a great option. Question is: Does this make the Sharks a legitimate Stanley Cup threat? Only time will tell, but I would be remiss if I didn’t remind Sharks’ fans that Heatley disappeared in the 2006-07 Stanley Cup finals against the Anaheim Ducks, so don’t make parade plans just yet.
Overall, I like the deal for both teams; there appears to be no loser here, and I suspect the deal will strengthen both teams.