San Jose Sharks v Los Angeles Kings - Game Six

Another Wild trade: Sharks deal Dany Heatley to Minnesota for Martin Havlat

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Apparently the San Jose Sharks and Minnesota Wild decided to shoot a sequel to their blockbuster trade that sent Devin Setoguchi, a prospect and some picks to Minnesota Brent Burns. The sequel might even be better than the original as the Sharks raised eyebrows by trading the polarizing sniper to the Wild for Martin Havlat.

I had a strange feeling* that the Sharks had the urge to get rid of Heatley’s massive $7.5 million cap hit after a rough (though to his credit, injury-ravaged) playoff run, but most people were justifiably stunned by this trade. The NHL’s rumor mill receives a lot of criticisms – and most of them are fair – but most of the time, it’s reasonably easy to see certain trades coming. Let’s face it; there were even rumors that Mike Richards and Jeff Carter might be on their way out of Philly before those still-shocking trades happened. That really wasn’t the case with Heatley and the Sharks, but they pulled the trigger tonight.

Dany Heatley: the NHL’s journeyman 50-goal scorer?

It’s tough for many to empathize with a controversial figure like Heatley, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he was blindsided by this trade. That being said, being traded is far from a new thing for Heatley.

The Atlanta Thrashers traded him to the Ottawa Senators before the 2005-06 season, in part to help Heatley and the organization move on from Dan Snyder’s tragic death. The Thrashers received a nice return that included Marian Hossa, but Heatley’s career really took off when he lined up with Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson in Ottawa. Things grew sour once the honeymoon period ended and Heatley clashed with then-coach Cory Clouston, leading Heatley to ask for a trade. Heatley notoriously refused to accept a deal that would send him to the Edmonton Oilers before he finally found his way to the Sharks.

Some might say that there’s some karmatic payback if Heatley didn’t see this one coming, although he cannot be too angry with the deal. TSN’s Darren Dreger reveals that Heatley had a “modified” no-trade clause that kept him from being moved to 10 different teams and the Wild apparently weren’t on that list. In other words, Minnesota ranked somewhere in the top 20 of Heatley’s favorite NHL destinations.

Heatley continues Minnesota’s metamorphosis into a scoring machine

During the last two or three seasons, the Wild’s transition from the shackles of Jacques Lemaire’s trap-based system to their more offense-minded regime seemed as messy and painful as a man turning into a werewolf (warning: link might be NSFW).

Adding Heatley and Setoguchi should help Minnesota’s offense reach a higher level. While Heatley brings that significant $7.5 million price tag, he’s one of the most legitimate goal scorers in the league right now. His 2010-11 season was underwhelming by his standards (“just” 26 goals), but he’s hit the 50-goal mark twice, scored 41 goals two other times and has two more 39-goal seasons on his resume. You won’t find a more reliable goal scorer beyond Ilya Kovalchuk and Alex Ovechkin. It will be interesting to see if he can hit those levels without an all-world passer such as Spezza or Joe Thornton by his side, though.

(Not that Mikko Koivu is chopped liver, mind you.)

What Martin Havlat brings to San Jose

It’s easy for Havlat to get lost in all the hubbub about Heatley, but he’s a talented player in his own right. No Wild player scored more than Havlat’s 62 points in 2010-11 (and Heatley only scored 64 with the Sharks). Havlat is a one-timer 30-goal scorer and scored 20 goals or more five other times while being fairly close to a point-per-game player (.82 points per game). Havlat also comes at a more affordable price, registering a $5 million annual cap hit through 2014-15 while Heatley’s $7.5 million hit expires in 2013-14.

That being said, Havlat is a downgrade from Heatley, at least when you consider the two players’ peak potential. Heatley has two 100+ point seasons to his credit while Havlat never even had 70 points in a single season.

The biggest concern with Havlat is his health, though. He only played 18 regular season games for Ottawa in 05-06 and missed huge chunks of seasons once he signed a deal with the Chicago Blackhawks. On the bright side, Havlat only missed four games last season, nine in 09-10 and one in 08-09, so maybe he turned that corner. His fragility remains a lingering worry nonetheless.

***

It’s a startling deal. When combined with the Burns trade, it should make San Jose-Minnesota games awfully interesting next season. The Wild get a big but expensive upgrade while the Sharks save $2.5 million and still get a talented player who has injury concerns and a lower ceiling. Don’t be surprised if these teams decide which side really “won” their two big trades during a seven-game playoff series in 2012, either.

* –  Thanks to the the people who brought Dany Heatley’s contract situation to my attention. I originally wondered why Heatley wasn’t involved in the Burns trade, but apparently clauses in his contract prohibited him from being traded before July 1.

Cody Eakin plays unlikely hero as Stars even series with Blues thanks to OT win

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Needing a win to even the series with the St. Louis Blues, the Dallas Stars didn’t get off to the greatest start Thursday.

On a rather embarrassing play in the first period of a crucial Game 4, the Stars were caught on the television feed clearly with six skaters on the ice, but still surrendered a breakaway goal on a stretch pass to a wide open Vladimir Tarasenko — 1-0 Blues. Again, not a great start for the Stars.

Sometimes in hockey, it’s apparently not always about how you start but how you finish. The Stars gained strength during the second period on goals from Radek Faksa and Patrick Sharp just 1:09 apart. Early in overtime, Cody Eakin scored his first goal of these playoffs to give the Stars a 3-2 win.

This series is now tied heading back to Dallas for Game 5. For the Blues, it’s a missed opportunity to put the high-flying Stars on the brink of elimination.

Eakin snapped a 17-game scoring drought that stretched into late-March of the regular season by going top shelf, short side of Blues goalie Brian Elliott just 2:58 into the extra period.

Jamie Benn and Patrick Sharp each had two-point nights for Dallas, assisting on the game winning goal.

In a series billed as Sidney Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin, the supporting cast is taking over for Penguins, Capitals

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PITTSBURGH — The well-traveled defenseman filling in for his team’s most indispensable player scored the first goal. The seemingly ageless center closing in on his 40th birthday scored the second. And the winger who makes a living trying to create space for Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby delivered the overtime winner that brought the Penguins within one victory of a spot in the Eastern Conference finals.

Sure, the stars might be out in the NHL’s marquee playoff matchup. They’re just not the ones shining.

Pittsburgh’s 3-2 thriller over top-seeded Washington in Game 4 on Wednesday night did more than give the Penguins a commanding 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. It also highlighted the depth the club has spent months cultivating around Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang.

Trevor Daley skated more than 28 minutes and picked up his first postseason goal in more than two years while serving the ironman role typically filled by Letang, serving a one-game suspension for an illegal hit in Game 3. Matt Cullen, who at 39 has openly wondered if he wants to return in the fall, slipped behind the Washington defense to give the Penguins a 2-1 lead. Patric Hornqvist, who spends most of time suction-cupped to a spot in front of the opposing goaltender, pounced on a loose puck 2:34 into overtime and slammed it by Braden Holtby to end Pittsburgh’s eight-game playoff losing streak in games pushed beyond regulation.

Related: Trevor Daley  is ‘in a good place’ now 

Heady territory for guys considered mere supporting players when the second-ever playoff showdown between Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin began last week.

“I think there’s a great chemistry amongst the team that we have right now,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “To see these guys play as hard as they do for one another as their coaches, it’s a thrill.”

Washington coach Barry Trotz tried to downplay the hype between two of the NHL’s most dynamic players in the run-up to Game 1, stressing there were much more to the longtime rivals than their franchise cornerstones.

Trotz was more right than he knew, only it’s Pittsburgh’s role players who have pushed the Presidents’ Trophy winners to the brink of elimination. Cullen’s two points during the series equal Malkin’s output. Hornqvist has three points through four games, two more than Crosby, though the two-time MVP occupied Holtby’s attention just long enough that the goaltender couldn’t get in proper position to stop the Game 4 winner.

“(Hornqvist) does a lot of the thankless things that help this team be successful,” Sullivan said. “To see him get rewarded in overtime for us is a thrill.”

The Capitals powered their way to the NHL’s best record behind spectacular goaltending from Holtby, a league-leading 50 goals from Ovechkin and a potent power play. All three have taken a significant step back against Pittsburgh. Penguins rookie Matt Murray has been every bit Holtby’s equal, Ovechkin’s 21 shots have produced a single goal and Washington is just 1 for 12 with the man advantage.

Though John Carlson, Jay Beagle and Marcus Johansson have tried to pick up the slack, the Capitals are now on the verge of succumbing to an all too familiar result in the spring.

Trotz pointed to Letang’s absence in Game 4 as an opportunity Washington needed to exploit. Instead, Daley patrolled the blue line and quarterbacked the power play in Letang’s stead while Justin Schultz – playing for the first time in more than two weeks – was solid in his return.

“The other guys were good, too,” Backstrom said. “I feel like they’re a good team. It’s not going to be easy.”

Especially playing a club getting contributions from all over, a far cry from the top-heavy roster that relied so heavily – usually too heavily – on Crosby and Malkin for production during recent postseason swoons.

It’s symbolic of the way Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford rebuilt Pittsburgh since taking over in the summer of 2014 that neither Daley nor Schultz were around when the season began. Then again, they’re hardly alone. Only a handful of players remain from the group that skated off the ice following a Game 7 loss to New York in the second round two years ago, a series the Penguins had led 3-1.

That setback is still fresh in the mind of Crosby and the others who remain. At the same time, most of the guys who surround Crosby in the dressing room won’t carry that baggage into Game 5 on Saturday night in Washington. This is, in many ways, feels like a fresh start filled with fresh faces, even if some are less well-known than others.

“We’ve always found ways to get the job done,” Daley said. “That’s what this team’s been all about. We always found ways to get it done. We started it awhile ago and it’s continuing on.”

 

Report: Ducks interested in Travis Green for vacant head coaching job

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Travis Green seems to be gaining increased attention for available head coaching jobs in the NHL, and the Anaheim Ducks, who fired Bruce Boudreau after a first-round playoff loss, are reportedly interested.

That’s according to a report from Elliotte Friedman during Thursday’s broadcast of Game 4 between the St. Louis Blues and Dallas Stars.

Green helped guide the Utica Comets, AHL affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks, to an appearance in the Calder Cup final a year ago. The Comets were, however, eliminated in the opening round of the post-season this year.

“I think I’m ready,” Green, who has spent the last three seasons in Utica, said recently. “Every job in the NHL is worth its weight in gold, and I would have 100 per cent interest at options with every team in the league. You hope all your qualities are enticing for one of them.”

Related: With four vacancies, the NHL  coaching carousel is ‘spinning out of control’ 

Video: The Stars had six skaters on the ice and still didn’t cover Tarasenko on breakaway goal

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Vladimir Tarasenko can be elusive to the opposition at five-on-five. Apparently that also applies to when the opposition has six skaters on the ice and their goalie still in the crease.

Tarasenko opened the scoring for the St. Louis Blues in Game 4 on Thursday, sneaking in behind the Stars defense for a breakaway goal on Kari Lehtonen. The Stars, by the way, had six skaters on the ice as the puck was turned over in the St. Louis zone.

Despite Dallas clearly having too many skaters, the play wasn’t blown down and Tarasenko found himself in the one-on-one situation. He made no mistake.

(Here’s a screen grab of the turnover inside the St. Louis end, leading to the breakaway. Six Dallas skaters.)

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