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.

Penguins re-sign Ruhwedel to a two-year deal

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The depth of the Pittsburgh Penguins defense faced the ultimate test this spring, winning a Stanley Cup despite the absence of Kris Letang.

Among those depth blueliners asked to come in and help fill the void left by injuries on defense was Chad Ruhwedel. And on Thursday, Ruhwedel re-signed with the Penguins to a two-year deal.

The Penguins announced that this new deal has an average annual value of $650,000 — a modest raise from his one-year, $575,000 deal for last season, but still certainly affordable for a Pittsburgh team that needs to get restricted free agents Brian Dumoulin, Justin Schultz and Conor Sheary under contract.

In his first season with the Penguins, Ruhwedel split his time between Pittsburgh and the AHL team in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. He scored twice with 10 points in 34 games with Pittsburgh, and then appeared in six postseason games as injuries continued to mount on the blue line.

His last game of the postseason came on May 19 versus Ottawa. He was diagnosed with a concussion, which was the result of a hit from Bobby Ryan in Game 4.

 

NHL announces 2017-18 regular season schedule

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The NHL released next year’s schedule on Thursday — one that cemented the league wouldn’t be participating in the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.

Games are scheduled right through the Olympic window, which runs from Feb. 9-25. You can view the entire schedule here.

Some dates of note:

• The Penguins will raise their Stanley Cup banner on opening night, Oct. 4, prior to their home date against the Blues.

• The league’s newest team, the Vegas Golden Knights, will play their first game on Oct. 6 in Dallas, and their first home game on Oct. 10 against the Coyotes.

• Detroit will play its first game in Little Caesar’s Arena on Oct. 5, against the Wild.

• Ottawa and Colorado will play a pair of games in Stockholm, Sweden on Nov. 10 and 11.

• Ottawa and Montreal will play the Scotiabank NHL100 Classic outdoors, at Lansdowne Park in Ottawa, on Dec. 16.

• The Rangers and Sabres will participate in the annual Winter Classic on Jan. 1 at Citi Field.

• From Jan. 26-29, Tampa Bay will host the NHL All-Star weekend.

• On Mar. 3, Washington will host Toronto in an outdoor game at the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis.

Marc-Andre Fleury, now a Golden Knight, will make his return to Pittsburgh on Feb. 6.

Jonathan Drouin, now a Montreal Canadien, will make his return to Tampa Bay on Dec. 28.

Jordan Eberle, now a New York Islander, will make his return to Edmonton on Mar. 8.

Eberle hopes to re-establish chemistry with John Tavares

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Jordan Eberle believes the trade to the New York Islanders will provide him with a fresh start — and possibly the opportunity to play alongside John Tavares.

In a blockbuster Thursday morning, the Oilers dealt Eberle to the Islanders for Ryan Strome.

There is a history between the two talented forwards that famously dates back to the 2009 World Juniors.

Back then, the draft-eligible Tavares was expected to go No. 1 overall in a few months time. Eberle was a first-round pick from the year before. It was Tavares shoveling a backhand shot toward the net and Eberle scooping up the puck and putting it behind the Russian goalie in the final seconds of regulation to send the semifinal game into overtime.

It’s one of the iconic moments in Canadian World Juniors history.

They will be reunited with the Islanders, and potentially on the same line, in order to give Tavares a scoring winger.

“From me, you have to be confident in your ability and confident that you can be in a top-six role. I think I’ve shown in the past that I can score in this league and I’ve had previous chemistry with John,” said Eberle, who scored 20 goals and 51 points for the Oilers this past season.

“Obviously, he’s a very intelligent player and the way that he plays suits my game. Maybe, if that’s where I end up, our games suit each other well.”

Eberle goes from a team that had Connor McDavid, the 2017 Hart Trophy winner, to Tavares, the first overall pick in 2009, an Olympian, and a player with two 80-plus point seasons under his belt.

They are both, as Eberle said, generational players. But with two totally different styles on the ice.

“I think you look at their attributes as players. I think Connor, the first one that sticks out to mind, is his speed. He’s maybe one of the fastest guys with the puck and you have to be able to keep up with that,” said Eberle. “John thinks the game, maybe, better than any other player in the league.

“Each does his thing in their own way, but gets the job done. For me, it’s more of, in my mind, to get ready to the best ability that I can to get into camp and hopefully fit in.”

Welcome Jason Demers to the trade rumor mill

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Florida’s season ended on April 9. Since then, the Panthers:

— Made a coaching change from Tom Rowe to Bob Boughner

Re-instilled Dale Tallon as GM

Lost leading goalscorer Jonathan Marchessault in the expansion draft

Traded Reilly Smith to Las Vegas.

And they might not be done shaking things up.

Per TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, defenseman Jason Demers — who was left unprotected at the expansion draft — is now available for trade. The news comes just one year after Demers signed a five-year, $22.5 million deal with Florida in free agency, one of the biggest moves in the club’s defensive overhaul from the season prior.

The 29-year-old was a lineup fixture in Florida last year. He appeared in 81 of 82 games, scoring nine goals and 28 points while averaging 19:37 TOI.

If anything, today’s news suggests Tallon might be trying to undo the work Rowe did during his stint as GM. It was Rowe, don’t forget, that inked Smith to his five-year, $25 million deal last July. Smith went on to have a subpar year — just 15 goals and 37 points — and, in one of his final noteworthy acts as head coach, Rowe called Smith out for his lacklustre play towards the end of the season.