Doug Wilson traded Dany Heatley for Martin Havlat. All right, so it’s the third day of NHL free agency 2011, but it is a Sunday.
For Sharks fans, the magnitude of this trade is sort of difficult to describe. Heatley has been one of the favorite targets of criticism for some time. To have him gone, along with other favorite whipping boys, has to be unsettling.
My first reaction was surprise, quickly followed by giddy enthusiasm because Havlat is actually a Czech. But that is pretty random and has nothing to do with Heatley.
I think one of the reasons Heatley was such a favorite to complain about was that he was considered impossible to move, a player the team was committed to for too much money and too much time. To hear some whine, one more year was too much if Heatley would not move mountains and make it rain. These complaints despite the fact that he was still one of the team’s top scorers.
So he has been moved, now what? I think there’s a little angst because Doug Wilson did something no one thought he would ever do: trade Heatley. Some people might have their feelings hurt a little by this, kind of like my feelings were hurt by what Paul Holmgren did with Carter and Richards. Not for love of the particular players, but because the moves came without warning.
Fear the Fin writers have their doubts about the deal. Among the interpretations we have: Heatley might be slipping with no resurgence in sight. Or Wilson is just trying to move a little salary around for another, bigger trade. Other options include a need to stay comfortably below the cap and still add a mid range salary, or maybe Wilson is the one slipping.
I don’t think any of those theories are clear winners. Both players carry the risk of an injury-plagued season. Barring that, my guess is that both Heatley and Havlat will perform better this coming season than they have in a while. Havlat was not thriving in Minnesota, he didn’t like the not winning part. And Heatley, though in no hurry to move, was not thriving in San Jose. The last two years represented noteworthy drop offs in performance.
I’m not sure Heatley was the problem. But he was the one with the loophole in his No Trade Clause, so he was the one to go. I think there was sort of a chemical imbalance among the top Sharks scorers. Not antipathy, but clearly a lack of communication among them. Something had to give, it did.
What Wilson’s long game is we don’t know. I think that miffs some sports writers, the few who cover hockey in California. Wilson’s cagey silence doesn’t bother me anymore, and it bothers me less after the garbage Holmgren gave the media to chew on. Silence is better than offensive noise.
Even though I don’t want to hear Holmgren’s explanations for anything at this point, I still think that there are some serious misconceptions about the Jagr signing: “Inside the Flyers: Flyers’ moves putting Cup chances on defense and Jaromir Jagr.” That cannot be the plan, or Holmgren really has lost his marbles. Jagr hasn’t played 70 games in a season for quite some time. He’s not the sort of player he used to be. I do think he will be helpful but if anyone expects him to be the mobilizing offensive force on the team, they took the wrong pills.
By comparison, trading Heatley for Havlat is perfectly rational. Havlat as a scorer is a downgrade from Heatley lately, even in Heatley’s latest lesser seasons, and Havlat hasn’t been to the playoffs in a long time. Havlat is expected to bring speed to the team to replace Seto’s speed. But I don’t think the goal was to get Havlat. I think it was to move Heatley and his salary. For what, I’m not sure. I just hope it doesn’t involve…
No, I’m not going to mention names. That never works out well. So I won’t describe the sort of awful move Wilson could make to ruin my day. I’ll just say I know it when I see it, and I hope I never see it.