Okay, so last week we discussed to some extent the Heatley trade rumours and Brennan's source that thought the trade would be done by last weekend. We said that the Elliot contract didn't tell us that Heatley's contract was coming off the books, that the three-way team carried very little logic as it relates to cap space, and because Murray wouldn't budge for anything less than what Edmonton was offering.
Now, let's try and consider the other side of the puck, why Heatley WILL be traded before camp next month.
1. He's a major distraction
I'll preface by saying I'm a strong believer in a tight-knit locker room, players getting along together, hanging out off the ice, etc. I know some think that it is irrelevant because all that matters is what they do on the ice, but you fight harder for teammates when you have that trust in one another. Right now, everyone is saying that they'd welcome Heatley back with open arms, but does anyone really think that Heatley has the courage to earn the trust back of his teammates?
On one hand, the players clearly know why Heatley has asked for a trade. They're going to be keeping that from the Garriochs and the rest of the media, but they know. On the other hand, Heatley still has turned his back on this team. He hasn't given one shred of evidence that he wants to rejoin this team, bury whatever hatchet is out there, and focus on the upcoming season. It is going to take a lot of charity work for him to earn the respect of the fans, but it is going to take far more than that to earn the trust of his teammates. For that reason alone, Murray will move him out of the dressing room and bring in guys that have a clean slate. This season is too important to Murray's career to let this distraction hang over the start.
2. Can a brother get some cap space?
I don't fault Murray for signing Spezza and Heatley to long-term contracts. It is very hard to just pack up and choose one of the two when they're up for extensions. Alfie is a lifer, so it was either choosing one or the other of the boyfriends, or cornering ourselves with a top heavy salary structure like what we have now. Obviously, Murray doesn't want to move either of the boyfriends because he thinks he can plug in the role players for under a million instead of balancing out salaries throughout the top three lines. But it doesn't work! Tampa proved that a few years ago, we proved that last year, and in time, Detroit will show that, as well. You can have a couple of guys paid as elite players, but you have to spread it out across positions. I like Calgary with Kipper, Phaneuf, Regehr, and Iggy as the four highest paid players. In Ottawa, we have our four highest paid players all at forward. It doesn't allow for much depth in the third and fourth lines and it leaves us in a terrible spot on defence and in nets.
While we don't like the circumstances that brought us here, Murray now has a golden opportunity to fix our salary structure. Go and make Spezza the highest paid players and then crank out a few guys in the $2-4M range. With Heatley and Spezza and Alfie together, we'll never have a chance to carry an elite defenceman or an elite goalie. We can't afford it! So while the trade request stinks, this is a blessing in disguise and a seasoned manager like Bryan Murray knows this. There has to be some feeling of relief for him that he can tidy up the payroll and blame it on a player at the same time.
3. Heatley still has value
Sure, we're furious at the guy and his agents for how this whole saga has been handled. For nearly two months, we've called Heatley every name in the book and questioned everything from his heart and courage to his social life to his commitment to Canadian hockey. Even other GMs like Burkie and David Poile have done us the favour of criticizing Heatley publicly. But at the end of the day, he's still one of the most prolific goal scorers in the decade, has put up 50 in a season twice since the lockout, and is a lock as a Canadian Olympian. Add to the list that he's signed long-term and is 28-years old and you have an elite player available to the highest bidder. And by highest bidder, I mean anyone that has cap space and offers three decent roster players. Teams like Dallas, Minnesota, San Jose, NY Rangers, and others could all use a player like this.
The fact that a trade hasn't been made isn't because there is no interest, it is because they're all waiting for Murray to drop the price as camp approaches. We've said all along that this is a multi-layered game of chicken involving Murray, Heatley, his agents, and any other GM that has a need for the Heat. As camp approaches, Murray as the stubbon and curmudgeonly old Shawville boy that he is, will just sit in his office and wait for the phone to ring. While he says he's fine having Heatley in camp, he knows that there are a small handful teams that will up their offers as September comes around. Oh yes, folks, the offers will come around. A 50-goal scorer is up for grabs and so long as Murray holds his standard, he knows that he's got an asset who will have his demand rise a bit everyday from now until teams step on the ice in mid-September.
Okay, that's it. Any thoughts? I know there are some of you commenters out there that think Heatley will be on this team through the trade deadline. But there are three strong reasons listed here that tell us that Heatley has a great chance of pulling on another sweater in September. Thoughts?