On a blissful summer Sunday evening in California, the Sharks world was shaken up. Big time.
Back in 2009, the Sharks found themselves entering the playoffs fresh of the leagues best record, and the franchises first ever President’s Trophy. That regular season was immediately followed by a first round exit to the hands of the Anaheim Ducks, and yet another chapter written into history for the playoff disappointments of the club.
Sharks general manager Doug Wilson immediately went to work that off season to make certain problems were fixed and holes were filled that created the teams epic collapse.
To get things rolling, Wilson brought all star winger Dany Heatley to San Jose in exchange for fan favorite Jonathan Cheechoo, Milan Michalek and a second round pick in the 2010 draft.
Fans in San Jose were immediately enthused, and ready to get back to the rink to see their newly acquired, two-time 50-goal scorer get to work. Heatley gave Sharks fans the honeymoon they wanted, netting a hat trick during his first game on San Jose ice.
But the honeymoon didn’t last forever.
But why did Heatley find himself second on the team in goals scored (65), points (146) in two seasons — ranking in the top 20 of the NHL in both categories, and being traded to Minnesota?
The answer is just one word, and it’s a golden word in the NHL: playoffs.
Heatley was as you saw, one of the Sharks best regular season point producers and leaders, but when April arrived, Heatley took a vacation.
Yes, the Sharks made two consecutive conference finals appearances, but Heatley netted just 5 goals in 32 playoff games. Remember also that the 2010 Western Conference Finals ended with Heatley in the box when t he series winning goal was scored. Heatley’s performance is just not something you can expect, or accept for that matter, from a player who averaged more than 40 goals the past six seasons.
So what does Minnesota get out of this deal? They get an elite power play scorer. Heatley scored 29 goals on the power play in his two seasons with the Sharks, an NHL-third best. They also get one of the most expensive skaters in the game. According to our friends at capgeek.com, Heatley will be the seventh-highest paid forward at $8 million this season. His cap hit of $7.5 million (average annual value of his contract) also ranks seventh among forwards for this upcoming season.
The Sharks aren’t necessarily losers of this deal, but they are taking a gamble. Martin Havlat has posted similar career postseason numbers. Though he has scored more playoff goals, he has accounted for eight less points despite playing in one more playoff game. However Havlat’s last two postseason appearances were impressive as he notched 15 points in the Blackhawks’ conference finals run in 2009 and scored seven goals in the 2006 postseason with the Senators.
Something Havlat brings to the table that Heatley could never do, is his world class speed and his ability to read the transition in the offensive zone. Havlat has fire in his skates, and while he is an offensive machine, shows that most of his game is played on the defensive side. And for the Sharks, there isn’t anything more important right now than tightening up on defense.
If I had to declare one team as a winner in this trade, I wouldn’t be able to. And I doubt any NHL analyst can reasonably say one team faired better than the other. Both teams are taking risks, all we can do is sit back, grab our popcorn and enjoy the ride.