Saturday, September 12, 2009

Heatley Traded...And The Lessons Learned

The inevitable has arrived and Dany Heatley has been granted his wish by being sent to the San Jose Sharks today (along with a 5th round pick) for wingers Milan Michalek, Jonathan Cheechoo and a 2nd round pick.

In short, a fantastic trade for Ottawa GM Bryan Murray, even if he was forced in the end to accept Cheechoo, a player he did not want in the deal by most accounts.

The real centrepiece for Ottawa is certainly Michalek, a player I mentioned as being a must in any trade involving San Jose (though Ottawa did not get Logan Couture as I had hoped they would).

The breakdown on Michalek is very good: The 24 year old is signed for the next 5 seasons at a very reasonable cap hit of 4.33 million. Considering his once heralded status as an elite prospect (he was picked 6th overall in 2003) and his obvious skills and power-forward size, getting Michalek is a very good return for the petulant and unhappy superstar that Heatley had become in Ottawa.

Michalek has yet to hit 30 goals in the NHL and his career high so far has been a modest 66 points in his breakout year of 2007. Yet the consensus is that Michalek will one day be a 30-35 goal scorer. He is also very fast for a player of his size and by most accounts has a great attitude and a desire to excel. The Sportsnet scouting report calls him a "low maintenance" player who is "polished at both ends of the ice".

Certainly more was expected of Michalek in San Jose but, as often happens, young players can sometimes be slower to develop and may not get optimal ice-time on squads stacked with veteran star players. The situation in San Jose over Michalek's career has certainly been like that, with Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau leading the way and a young gun in Devin Setoguchi nipping at his heels. In a way, Michalek was a bit of a "tweener" and might find himself a better fit on the Senators, who have always needed a power forward since their inception into the league.

The options for Michalek, a natural left-winger, are endless. He would look equally at home with Jason Spezza (Michalek spent some time with Thornton on the wing two seasons ago) or as a complimentary big-body on a line with Mike Fisher. One nice stat is Michalek's 6 game-winning goals last year, matching his power-play total.

After some serious knee injuries early on in his career, Michalek has been fairly healthy and durable recently, playing no fewer than 77 games the past four seasons.

Jonathan Cheechoo on the other hand, is coming in as a once dynamic goal scorer (56 goals in the year after the lockout) but has seen his totals and role on the Sharks plummet ever since. Since his breakout season, Cheechoo's goal totals have dropped consecutively in 3 straight seasons - 37 to 23 to a lowly 12.

The former Rocket Richard winner lost his spot on a line with Thornton and was a minus 3 with the President's Trophy winners last year. His skating and defensive acumen have always been criticised but his skills are too good to totally write off just yet.

It's obvious that Murray, after having a face-to-face meeting with the disgruntled Heatley yesterday, decided to accept a player he didn't want in order to get Heatley out of the organization. Murray told the Ottawa Sun "I did spend some time with him yesterday. When I looked him in the eye I knew I had to trade him"

Heatley didn't want to be here anymore and the weekend was turning into a complete circus with reporters in a complete frenzy over the situation. What once looked like an unpalatable player in Cheechoo just a week ago now seemed like the only solution to the entire mess. Even if Cheechoo turns out to be a bust, the Senators are only stuck with him for the next two seasons at a cap hit of 3 million. It's a risk, but a mid-priced one worth taking.

On the money side, the trade is essentially a wash. Heatley's 7.5 cap hit goes out, Michalek's and Cheechoo's cap hit of 7.33 million comes in. The Senators save some pocket change and get rid of an albatross that was becoming heavier by the day.

But now what?

For Ottawa, the staggering number of NHL ready forwards they already have increases by one.

The following are locks to play barring a trade:

1. Alfredsson
2. Spezza
3. Kovalev
4. Michalek
5. Cheechoo
6. Fisher
7. Kelly
8. Neil
9. Ruutu
10. Foligno
11. Winchester
12. Shannon

The following will essentially be fighting for the healthy scratch position:

13. Donovan
14. Smith
15. Regin
16. Schubert
17. Zubov
18. Bass

So what and who is going to give?

One solution could be to trade Chris Kelly and let Jesse Winchester assume his role on the club. Winchester is tougher than Kelly and is quickly getting better although Kelly is well liked in the room and is a great penalty-killer. Murray wasn't happy having to give Kelly over 2 million a season and that price tag will make him equally harder to move.

Another factor is that prospects Zack Smith and Peter Regin are both probably ready to make the NHL. Organizations don't like to let their prospects stagnate in the minors and generally try to move out dead wood to make room on their roster for cheap young players. Both Smith and Regin (and possibly Cody Bass) fit that bill but who is the dead wood?

Shean Donovan is certainly not dead wood and plays a great veteran role on the team as a tireless worker and a speedy fourth liner. He deserves better than to be sitting or put on the waiver wire. Getting rid of Jarkko Ruutu is not going to happen because he plays a singular and important role on the team as an agitator and a physical presence, something the Sens need more of, hence their enthusiasm for Smith.

Can Murray turn around and deal Cheechoo to another team desperate for offense? It's possible but not likely anytime before teams submit their final cap-payrolls to the league at the start of October. Barring a fantastic training camp, Cheechoo is unlikely to land that coveted spot on Spezza's wing. Kovalev, Michalek, Alfredsson and Foligno will all give him stiff competition.

Cheechoo may get some good time on the Senators second power-play unit, a spot that Heatley was very unhappy to be in. He might also be a good fit with Fisher on a third or second line.

As for Heatley's departure, no one is going to shed a tear, let alone myself. Yet, I don't feel the wrath for Heatley was warranted to the degree that it got to. It's a common occurrence for NHL players to complain about ice-time and ask for trades. Just ask Senator defenseman Chris Campoli who did both in Long Island just last year. Yet no one is calling into question his values.

Regardless, it is best for both sides that this situation has now been resolved and perhaps the Senators community, both fans and media, can put down their pitchforks and start supporting the team in a more positive manner.

The notion that the Heatley situation was affecting ticket sales, an opinion not rejected by new team president Cyril Leeder, is probably true but not in the way you think.

For the longest time, the fans and media have been quick to jump on a very negative bandwagon and make pariahs out of certain players for reasons that are shaky at best. In turn, the Senators organization has not taken actions to defend their own players and thus, the product that they are trying to sell to the public is devalued. The players are the product and need to be promoted and protected, just like any other asset.

People barely recognize the charitable work these "millionaire" athletes do for the community and are instead judged by their lifestyles and any innuendo that can be attached to them.

Certain radio programs on the Team 1200 spend countless amounts of capital personally attacking these same players, eroding the very product that the station paid handsomely for to broadcast the games and attract sponsors. Yet the Senators sit on their hands and let the rot set in. Maybe the Senators do complain or even threaten to opt out of their agreement with the station, but it doesn't seem to be working if that is the case.

If Leeder can do anything better than his predecessor Roy Mlakar, he can get out in front of negative stories and try to better protect the product he is trying to sell to ticket buyers. If he is complaining about no one buying tickets, maybe it's because they have a negative view of what you are selling to them, regardless of how the team is doing on the ice.

By and large, NHL players are great guys and the Senators need to do a way better job of telling people about this and using their considerable influence to impart that to their media partners.

People will gladly pay money to watch entertaining hockey played by respectable members of the community. They won't pay money to watch "spoiled athletes" who only care about money and "party" their careers away. It doesn't matter that this type of athlete barely exists in the NHL, let alone in Ottawa. If the public perceives them this way, they won't support the team.

After all these brutal, painful lessons - Daigle, Yashin, Emery, Redden, Heatley - perhaps now the Senators and their fans can get on with what is really important - winning hockey games and keeping the organization healthy and vibrant in the capital of Canada.


Canucnik said...

Well there goes 2nd place!

As your listing of our forwards shows we got a shitload of second stringers.

Ya know what it doesn't matter who goes and who you keep they are all the same guy...that goes for the bottom nine forwards.

#11; #19 and #27 will tire by xmas and then we go in the tank just like the Leafs.

Sent "Erik" home for a year we don't need him here getting hurt for nothing.

Cut Schub and Chum they deserve better than us.

CC get the whip out because you are going to eventually wear this one and it"s not going to be may be your career!

Man, Bryan ya came so close and now your a bum again. This TRADE STINKS!

SCSF said...

Not a bad trade, all things considered. One malcontent, possibly fading, superstar for some decent depth.

Michalek is a good player with very good wheels. Not that physical, but sufficient in that respect for the East. Great potential over the next few years.

Cheechoo... not so great in the wheels department, but obviously he's got decent hands. He'll bring a good attitude to the team as well, and hopefully will be out to prove that his 3rd line time last year was a mistake on the part of SJ.

Make no mistake, it'd be nice to have gotten Setoguchi along with Michalek, but under the circumstances, this seems like a decent return.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Canucnik.

We are a team full of second stringers. Every defense of this trade that I've heard, is a defense for mediocrity.

Chris Phillips said it best. You don't replace a 50 goal scorer with two 25 goal scorers. The fifty goal guy has the ability to score when you really need the goals. He said this before the deal went down.

If you follow the logic that many are using to defend the deal, then the following must also be true.

Why pay $10 to watch an Academy Award winning film, when you could watch two b-rated films for $5 each. Why spend a night at the Westin, when you could get two at the Best Western. Why buy a Benz, when you could get five Corollas.

I think we got hosed.

I can't see how Melnyk is gonna be happy with this deal. The Sens gave away $7.5M in cap hit and took back $7.3M in cap hit. That's good.

But, Heatley's deal was front loaded. Meaning Melnyk paid for a lot of it already. Michalek and Cheechoo's deals are back loaded. Meaning Melnyk will be paying for most of their contracts was well.

Dollars wise, Melnyk is the new NHL Santa Claus. He's still sending real dollars to Emery. He paid $1M in extra salary in the Comrie deal last year (Charles Wang will end him a X-Mas card).

And in this deal Michalek's cap hit is $4.3M, but he signed a $26M deal. Only $3M was paid last year. Santa Melnyk will pay for the rest.

Cheechoo's cap is $3M, but he is owed $7M over the last two years.

Meanwhile, Heatley is only owed $31M on his deal as Santa picked up the first $14M.

The Sens will be paying more real dollars then the cap hits indicate. The Sharks will be paying less real dollars than the cap they took back.

The Sens are less profitable today, as a result of the deal, while the Sharks are instantly more profitable.

Doug Wilson is the front runner for Executive of the Year.

The downward spiral continues.

Master Of Puppets said...

Nik buddy,
Let's restrain ourselves now. Even this:

Foligno Spezza Alfie
Michalek Fisher Kovalev
Cheechoo Kelly Shannon
Ruutu Winchester Neil

Wouldn't be a bad lineup.

Kovy and Alfie are the aging vets who may need a cut in ice for the full season to not run out of gas.

Cheechoo gets extra ice on the PP to go to 15 mins/game.

I see two if not three lines that can be made to cause grief.

The Bruins had 7 guys hit 20+ goals last year. How many will we have this year?

Alfie, Spezza, Kovy are capable of 30.
Foligno, Michalek, Cheechoo even Fisher should get 20+.

Christ we got a better goalie to quell your American League Defence (Although I fail to see Volch, Phillips and Kuba as AHLers)

If anything BM has a shit load of options (in your fawkin face Dany)
for trade. Maybe a couple low end moves and a pick for your coveted stud D man. But who is left?

Guys I can't wait to see some preseason and get this train a rollin. I bet Buffalo and some other division rivals may be soiling trou today.

Think positive. This team will be good.

Oh, ok Cheechoo is owed 7M, while Michalek, 23M. Where I'm from that equals 30M. Dany costs 31M over his remaining term. (Yes 4M is already paid) so in effect its Sens 34, SJ 31. Santa really only coughed up 3M. (maybe thats equal to a 5th for 2nd rnd pick swap)

I really don't think it was a hose job. Were there better deals that could have been made? - probably if this bullshit saga hadn't turned all day of our fawkin lives. Were we going to see a better deal?

But, I wonder what price you'd put on having Dany try and play here with all the circus, with the wagons going ready to ride ...

Time to move on, DFH is gone!

Master Of Puppets said...

BTW, great blog Jeremy, between you, duff, nichols and SLC we get some fantastic viewpoints, from the serious to the downright hilarious ...

phil said...

i've been reading comments on a few sens blogs all day, which has for the most part left me sick to my stomach.

this trade is now about 6 hours old - hopefully by tomorrow everyone will quit their moaning and start thinking reasonably about it.

personally i'm thrilled at the prospect of seeing what the new faces in our lineup will do this year. radical, i know - i call it 'being a fan'..

Canucnik said...


Fall on your sword...your DONE!

No one has to go to camp there is not a slot left for anyone "New".

You could not have let Wilson pick his two worst CAP "BUMS"...I call tampering...communicating...whispering between Dougie and Dany?

Get one of your Blog reporters to call "Stacey" tonight and through a drunken celebration he can officially embarrass all of us SENs fans...they won the battle and the war...we are officially a Tier 2 hockey team.

Boys, there is nothing positive here.

Man did Bryan take a shellacking!

Canucnik said...

Phil...Phil "Wake Up!"

My old over 40 Team could beat the SENS right now!

the true feelings of most people said...

canuknik, can you please just fuck off? jesus christ you moron. you spread filth everywhere. every place i look i see your insane shitty ramblings. youre like a fucken old and grumpy chicken little. michalek is a STUD with a good value contract. we have a couple elite forwards and awesome depth up front now. we just ended the "summer of heatley" and there are a lot of things to look forward to this season. take a pill or maybe boot some heroin to level you out. weve heard more than enough out of you. check in around december or better yet dont come back at all.

Anonymous said...

the true feelings of most people said...,

Speak for yourself dude. You don't represent me. I'm with Canucnik on this one. I think we got the short end of the stick on this one.

Michael Jordan had a great quote at is Hall of Fame induction speech this weekend. It wasn't a very diplomatic quote, but I found that their was a ring of truth to it.

He talked about how the Bulls were losing a game, and he decided to take over. They won the game, and after the game an assistant coach pulled him aside and told him, "Michael, there is no "i" in team." Michael responded, "Ya, but there is an "i" in win."

From my point of view, Heatley's attitude may not be the most endearing, but many superstars have that same sort of attitude.

The Senators, and some fans, need to decide if they can handle superstar talent. So far, they have shown that they cannot.

Along with Heatley, both Ovechkin and Kovolchuk are the top snipers in the game. Look at what OV said this week alone. He said he's going to the 2014 Olympics regardless of what anyone says. Isn't that totally "me first"? Both OV and Kolvolchuk are guys that won't take any crap. To me, they come across as very "me first". But, they perform on the ice. Especially OV.

Brett Hull was one of the best goal scorers of all-time. Extremely "me first".

Brendan Shanahan was captain of the Hartford Whalers in 1996, and a former 50 goal man. He asked for a trade at the beginning of the season. He was 27 years old and getting older. He wanted out and wanted to win. He got shipped to Detroit and won the Cup. No one bashed him for been a suck, and he was under contract just like Heatley. He's a three-time Cup winner, 600 goal man, and on his way to the Hall of Fame.

Many superstars have a low tolerance for mediocrity. They expect excellence.

Heatley was not my favorite Senator, but I'm pissed that he's gone. I watch the games to see the highly skilled guys work their magic. I could care less about guys "wanting to be here", or whether they are "local guys".

I like both Cheechoo and Michalek because I've always liked the Sharks. But, in my view, they are too little of a return for Heatley.

Anonymous said...

Master of Puppets,

It's anon @ 6:30pm. I hear ya on the fact that the net salary swap is $30M for $31M. But that's not how things will work out for Melnyk in the end.

Fans will expect Melnyk to spend to the cap. Fans monitor the cap. They don't really care about how many real dollars Melnyk is spending.

Many contracts that Murray has renewed have been front-loaded. Fisher, Spezza, Heatley, Alfie, and even Kelly have their biggest salary in the early years.

The contracts that Murray trades for are back loaded. Even Leclaire will average $4.2M a year for is two years even though his cap hit is only $3.8M.

With Cheech and Michalek, their cap hits are $3M and $4.3M. But, the actual dollars will average $3.5M and $4.6M.

If the cap is $57M, and Ottawa spends to the cap, Melnyk's actual payout will be higher. Not to mention the fact that he paid Heater $10M last year, but only got cap credit for paying $7.5M.

Meanwhile, SJ gets a $7.5M player in the lineup who will only cost them an average of $6.2M a year.

The bottom line from a business perspective is that if Melnyk wants his GM to spend to the cap, his actual payout will be higher than the cap. He's less profitable.

Then again, he can always tell the GM to not spend to the cap.

Canucnik said...

To true feelings:

Stick around boy and we shall see if you really know anything about hockey.

Just for the record, perhaps you didn't notice, most times I am invited to comment.

PS: If you are who I think you are you have never had an original thought in your life.

PPS: Thanks for your interest be sure to read my blog... you shall be featured often!

Jalen said...

FWIW, my (random) thoughts:

- I think Jeremy's comparison to Campoli's situation is weak - Campoli hadn't just signed a sick contract with an organization that had given him a second chance or one with which he'd enjoyed monster success

- on the cap impact, one minor point of disagreement - the dollars may be nearly the same, but you should also consider the roster spot taken up but the second Shark player coming this way. Thus, it's Heater's salary + the player that now won't make it (or gets traded) versus the salaries of the two players coming this way. Given the top 9 status of both Michalek and Cheechoo, that's likely another $1M

- the part of the trade I may be most disappointed with is the absence of a centre coming back that would move Fisher to the wing - a change I feel is necessary for the roster to balance itself

- I don't think Karlsson's ready to step in this year whether or not we're a contender. I'd like to see him play some games in Bingo to let him adjust somewhat

- if Michalek develops into the 35-40 goal scoring power forward we've never had, BM will have done very well with this deal

- looking at this year's second round picks, I have some faith BM will turn the SJ 2nd into something

- another key will be Cheechoo's health. He's not the same skater since the hernia surgeries and I don't know if the drop off in his skating is permanent or if he can recover...but I'm not optimistic

- Cheechoo has to be be able to contribute for the lines to work well - I just don't see how Spezz and Kovy can play together 5-on-5. Cheechoo playing well would look good beside Spezz and Alfie, both of whom should be kept together IMO. Or maybel Foligno wins the job and Cheechoo contributes on the third line with Kells

- in the final analysis, I still think the season (before or after this trade) comes down to the performance between the pipes. What we have in Leclaire is the most important question needing an answer

- Jalen

Blood Red Army said...


If you're looking for someone to replace Fisher as a second line center, Foligno is a natural center. How about:

Cheechoo, Spezza, Alfie
Michalek, Foligno, Kovalev
Ruutu, Fisher, Neil
Winchester, Smith, Shannon

Jalen said...

Blood Red:

I hear you re: Foligno, but I'm not sure Foligno can fill that role, either. I like his game, but I don't see him with the skill and vision to be a #2 center. I'd love to be wrong about that.

However, my real issue is that Fisher should be playing the wing. His game is best suited to being a winger and his defensive game has suffered the last two years trying to be the 2nd line centre the team needs. Let him play the wing on the top two lines for an extended period and I believe he'd flourish with a simplified game.

Fish also makes too much money for third line minutes. And you left Kells and his $2M+ contract out of your line up?

- Jalen

Anonymous said...


Gonna do the hockey pool on the 27th. It's a Sunday night. Come down to Hy's, we'll be doing it after we close up.


Ps- Cell # is 294-2295

Jeremy Milks said...

Rybone, I'll be there. I start studying now....