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.

Stars put Spezza on injured reserve, recall Faksa from AHL Texas

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Sitting three points out of top spot in the Central Division and on the eve of an important divisional clash on home ice with the Chicago Blackhawks, the Dallas Stars have placed center Jason Spezza on injured reserve retroactive to Thursday, the club announced on Friday.

Spezza, 32, was injured during Thursday’s game against the Colorado Avalanche. The Stars can move back to within a point of Chicago for the division lead with a regulation win on Saturday.

In 52 games this season, Spezza has 18 goals and 40 points, which ties him with Patrick Sharp for fourth on the team in total points.

With Spezza out, the Stars recalled 22-year-old forward Radek Faksa from the Texas Stars in the AHL.

Faksa has 15 goals and 26 points in 28 games this season with Texas. In 18 games with the NHL Stars, he has one goal and three points.

Hitch’s recipe for more goals is a pretty simple one

Ken Hitchcock, David Backes, Dmitrij Jaskin, Paul Stastny, Patrik Berglund
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Ken Hitchcock wants the Blues to spend more time attacking and less time defending.

Because hockey isn’t rocket science, that’s why.

“To score and win games in the National Hockey League…you have to spend as much time in the offensive zone as you can,” Hitchcock told the Post-Dispatch.

“When you’re occupying the offensive zone more, you’re forechecking more. When you’re occupying the offensive zone more, the goalie has to make saves. They’re having to defend more. And the opposing team takes penalties on you. So they’re all connected. … What I want to see from us is staying on the puck for longer stretches.”

According to the stats, the Blues have not been spending as much time in the offensive zone as we’re used to seeing from them. In fact, in their last 20 games, they rank in the bottom third of the league in score-adjusted Corsi. That compares to their first 20 games when they were in the top third.

The result is fewer shots, and more importantly, fewer goals. The Blues have fallen all the way to 25th in offense, averaging just 2.37 goals per game. Last year, they finished fifth (2.91).

Yes, some of that may be due to the absence of Jaden Schwartz, and he should be back soon. But there’s a reason people are watching GM Doug Armstrong as the Feb. 29 trade deadline approaches. This team could probably use another piece up front.

The Blues host Minnesota Saturday.

St. Louis has scored just five goals in its last five games.

Goalie nods: Lindback ‘really excited’ for first start in almost three weeks

Anders Lindback
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Tonight in Anaheim, Anders Lindback will make his first start for the Arizona Coyotes since Jan. 16.

The Coyotes have been riding rookie Louis Domingue since just before Christmas, but Domingue has allowed five goals in each of his last three starts, including last night’s 5-4 loss to Chicago.

Lindback’s last appearance came Tuesday in relief, when he allowed one goal on 10 shots in a 6-2 loss to the Kings.

Lindback was in goal for one of Arizona’s three victories this season over Anaheim, stopping 33 of 36 shots in a 4-3 overtime win on Nov. 9. However, his .896 save percentage ranks among the lowest in the league.

Frederik Andersen is expected to start for the Ducks.

Elsewhere…

— No word yet on a Penguins starter in Tampa, but Ben Bishop will go for the Bolts.

Cam Ward will start for the Hurricanes in Winnipeg, where Connor Hellebuyck is expected for the increasingly desperate Jets.

— Joonas Korpisalo was solid last night in Vancouver, but the Blue Jackets have not announced their starter for tonight’s game in Calgary. Karri Ramo will be in goal for the Flames.

A ‘pretty solid two-way player,’ Sundqvist to make NHL debut for Penguins

Pittsburgh Penguins' Oskar Sundqvist (49) collides with Minnesota Wild's Jason Zucker (16) in the first period of a NHL preseason hockey game in Pittsburgh, Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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The latest Penguins injuries, these ones to Evgeni Malkin and Eric Fehr, have led to an opportunity for Oskar Sundqvist.

Sundqvist will make his NHL debut for the Penguins tonight in Tampa. The 21-year-old center has five goals and 11 assists in 39 AHL games this season.

“Sunny’s a pretty solid two-way player,” coach Mike Sullivan said, per the Tribune-Review.

“I don’t think he’s going to dazzle you with flashy plays, but I think he’s a guy who plays the game the right way. He’s hard to play against because of his size. He’s got a long reach, and he’s got a good stick.”

Sundqvist was selected 81st overall by the Pens in 2012. He’ll become the fourth player out of that Pittsburgh draft class to make his NHL debut, after Olli Maatta, Derrick Pouliot, and Matt Murray.

Veteran Matt Cullen will replace Malkin on the second line, skating with wingers Carl Hagelin and Phil Kessel.

Related: Nick Bonino out ‘at least a month’ with hand injury