05 July 2011

Four reasons I've warmed to the Dany Heatley trade.

The Minnesota Wild traded maligned forward Martin Havlat to the San Jose Sharks for other maligned forward Dany Heatley.

My inital reaction (on Twitter Sunday night) to the trade was that Fletcher has just traded one problem contract for an even bigger problem contract as there is a 2.5M difference in the cap hits and both players battled injuries last year with Heatley scoring 26 goals and Havlat scoring 22.

On the surface this seems pretty risky, but then a few things came to mind after digging into it.

1) Contract length.

The Wild will be out of the Heatley deal one year sooner than the Havlat deal, which is a little more consistent with the overall goal of signing the talent in the Wild system as they mature.

2) Wild cap space

The Wild are no longer right at the cap with the increase and letting most of their free agents walk (so far only Josh Harding signed, Theodore and Brunette have already signed elsewhere). Even after this deal, the Wild have $12M left to spend and are a better team (at least on paper) than last year.

Before this past season, there's no way the Wild can make this trade because they were right at the $56M cap (and ended up 13th in the West). They couldn't squeeze $2.5M then, so I might have been in this knee-jerk mode that it's impossible for the Wild to add that hit on a risky deal like this. But when you think about it, it's not really the case anymore.

3) Heatley does have more upside.

I had to think about this for a while as well, but if you look at the numbers Heatley has had some pretty good seasons in the past, though he hasn't cracked 100 points in five seasons. A lot of good players won't do that, but for Heatley's money I think higher expectations are justified. At age 30 I don't think time will be on Heatley's side much longer, so its hard to expect him to duplicate these results. However, if Heatley does earn the role of "go-to guy," even if it's not to the extent that Gabroik was that guy, this deal is probably worth it. Heatley seems to have a better chance to achieve this that Havlat.

Furthermore, GM Chuck Fletcher has said many times recently the team needs to shoot more and shoot better. Setoguchi and Heatley do help achieve this end, better than the players that have left (well except I will miss Burns' shooting ability greatly).

And while Havlat showed flashes of brilliance in his two seasons here, at times he was just outright brutal. He certainly earned his way down to the third line at the start of this past season (and I would say he subsequently eard his way to higher on the depth chart). I personally wanted to see Havlat work through this here and achieve his potential, and he was heading in a better direction by season's end. But when considering that against a chance to get Dany Heatley... it's just tough to picture Heatley playing bad enough to be in a 3rd line situation like Havlat was.

Which brings me to my fourth point....

4) One less Allan Walsh client on the team

The situation between Havlat and the Wild turned ugly when agent Allan Walsh went public with his dissapointment in Havlat's 3rd line role. Walsh was way out of line criticizing Richards and acting like a coach wannabe (yes, as an amateur fan-blogger, I have found the nerve to call someone a wannabe). Beyond my enjoyment in rehashing this, I think not having Allan Walsh out there takes some pressure off of Yeo. If Havlat stays in Minnesota and things go south again, maybe Yeo handles this situation better, we don't know. But this is something I'd rather Yeo not be distracted by this year.

(I suppose I hope Walsh's behavior affects the way the Wild deal with his clients if they have a chance to acquire any of them in the future. Well except for Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller, because come on, that guy's awesome!)

In conclusion, Heatley probably won't be the seconnd coming of Gaborik in his prime, which I think the dollars of his contract should suggest. But will probably be more helpful than Havlat toward the team's goals. If he doesn't work out, worst case is he walks in 3 years and hopefully the Wild's youth movement will be realized by then. If he's good, he'll be 33 at the end of his deal an could get one more contract here.