Training camp opens in less than a month. The first pre-season game is 33 days away, opening night just a few weeks after that. Kids are headed back to school, families make final summer plans at the cottage, and Dany Heatley braces himself for his inevitable return to the Ottawa Senators.
I've come a long way with this, to be honest. I've followed the Ian Mendes road to recovery and even though Heatley is still on our team, I'm coming to grips with this once unthinkable reality. I wrote here earlier this summer that there was no chance in hell that Heatley and Murray wouldn't come together and find a way to ship this guy to any of the 29 other teams. I thought either Murray would take a lesser offer or Heatley would suck up the deal to Edmonchuk.
Wrong on all accounts! In case you haven't noticed, I have an AWFUL track record with predictions and guarantees. I say we make the playoffs and we'll miss them. I say the we draft a forward and Murray picks a defenceman (although there is no chance he would have passed on Cowen at that spot regardless). And I guaranteed that Heatley would be moved and I stand here today to correct myself. Face it, guys, Dany Heatley is coming to town. He's suiting up alongside his normal on-again, off-again interest and he'll spot somewhere between 40-50 goals this season.
We should have seen this coming, to be honest. First, the publicity of the trade request is something that should never be underestimated. This turned the negotiations into a circus and made Heatley into the disloyal character he's seen as today. Second, the draft came and went without movement. This was an ideal opportunity to close the door and the offers just weren't there. And then the Edmonton fiasco on and around Canada Day/free agency. The writing has been on the wall since midnight struck on July 1st - nobody is going to give us anything close to equal value for this player. In the eyes of the other GMs, why offer talent for talent when you know Murray has to move him? If you're Murray, why get taken to task when you'd be just as happy to deal with the bad press and have a 50-goal scorer in the lineup? Long story short, the dude is coming back to the Sens.
So tonight, I try and take another step toward the reality of having this guy back on our team. The comments box a few weeks ago asked about what it would take for you to welcome #15 back. Responses ranged from a hat trick to a 7-figure donation to charity and everything in between. For me, I'm at a point where I'd just be satisfied with him saying that he has changed his mind and is ready to play as hard as he can to help Ottawa get back to the playoffs. Seriously, I think that's all I need. Just tell us you had a long time to think this summer and you've gotten over whatever it was your agent told you was bothering you, and now you're ready to play with your teammates.
Heatley's return will mean a few things for other players, too. First, Gator will either be placed on LTIR or quietly advised to retire and take a consulting position. Even if Smith begs Murray to move him to another team to play another year, nobody wants him at $2.6M. Putting him on re-entry waivers kinda screws us, too, because we'll have $1.3M on our books for half his salary. Gator is done when Heatley returns. Schubert is on the bubble, too. Mike Comrie won't get an offer from us, either. We'll have to fill holes with younger guys like Winchester again instead of having received players like Penner and Cogliano (and having the cap space to add Comrie, too...).
Like it or not, our cap situation stays the same, we don't get much scoring depth after AK27, and we have to cut a warrior. And most important, Dany Heatley will pull on his Sens sweater for another year. In fact, who is to say that the trade request doesn't fall from our minds by Thanksgiving and the guy plays out the rest of his contract?
Question for you, Joe Sensfan - have you forgiven Dany Heatley yet? If not, you'd better put down some chicken soup and have a heart to heart with yourself on how you're going to react on opening night when he's in our starting lineup.