Let's think this one over - is this big news or just another blip on the radar? It has been exactly a month since Dany Heatley said he needed more time to decide if he'd go to Edmonton in the completed trade. So when the Oilers say that they are no longer interested in pursuing this trade this week, is that really a big deal?
My initial reaction was one of surprise and disappointment. I truly thought that Edmonton would stay in this until training camp. It really isn't much different than a team pursuing a free agent that is holding out for a better option. Teams put together videos of their program, they visit the players at their homes, and they publicly discuss their interest. In the case of the Oilers here, it always seemed to have a touch of desperation, but it was really just a team doing everything it could to acquire a 50-goal scorer. I thought they'd stay in it as long as it took.
But perhaps the writing was on the wall on June 30th when said he needed more time to think about it. When the Oilers called Heatley's agents to confirm that he'd waive his no-movement clause, the call shouldn't have shocked anyone. Barry and McAlpine must have known that this conversation was taking place and must have passed that information on to Heatley. Regardless of if they thought Slats and the Rags would put together a better offer, they must have had that conversation within their camp about Edmonton and what their response would be. So when Heatley said he wasn't sure, it wasn't about needing more time; it was strictly about hoping that another team would put together a better offer. That clearly hasn't happened and again, I see this as a gross PR disaster for Heatley and company.
Why a PR disaster? Well, they basically held the Oilers hostage and used and abused their offer to go shopping elsewhere. Is it okay for Murray to use Edmonton's offer as a standard to go shopping? Absolutely, because he always knew that he would come back and accept that deal if Slats or Wilson or anyone else wouldn't match it. But Heatley clearly knew before June 30th that he wouldn't go to Edmonton and instead of flat out saying no to Murray before the trade leaked, he let his agents spend the next month lobbying for other teams. If Heatley had no intention of going to Edmonton, then it was the responsibility of his agents to say in mid-June, or at the draft, or prior to free agency, to tell Murray an emphatic no, to stop talking to the Oilers.
And where do we go from here? Most pundits are now assuming that it is inevitable that Heatley is back in Ottawa this Fall when camp opens in six weeks. Some are still thinking that another team might finally step up and find a way to get this guy under their cap. One thing is for certain - Murray's bargaining power just took another hit. If you're Doug Wilson, you no longer have to match the Penner/Cogliano/Smid offer, right? Booboo says Cheechoo/Ehrhoff/1st rounder was already turned down by Ottawa so the question becomes whether or not Wilson feels he needs to up that offer and whether or not Murray feels that Heatley must not return to Ottawa. We've all heard the players, Murray, the Euge and others say they'd welcome Heatley back with open arms, but that has got to just be public relations.
Everyone from Heatley, his agents, and the entire Ottawa Senators organization wants this thing to end with Heatley sporting different threads next season. If the Oilers ship has sailed and they and Heatley don't want each other, then this might just come down to Murray taking whatever offer is on the table, regardless of the return.
Let me as you this: does Murray have to take a lowball offer just to move Heatley, or just bring him to camp and make amends?