Thursday, August 13, 2009

Have you forgiven Dany Heatley yet?

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.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Spezza is going camping!

Spez will be going to at least one camp with his ex-bf this year. It was just announced that Spezza has (finally) been invited to the Olympic Camp to replace Getzlaf, who went under the knife this summer.

This is a well deserved invite for the newly married man and should give him more incentive to impress on the ice this year. Congrats Spez!!

On the flip side, B's fans continue to stew as ex-Metcalf Jet Marc Savard remains off the list.

Monday, August 10, 2009

3 Reasons why a Heatley trade IS close

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?