Last night, the NHL world was turned upside down thanks to the Sharks and Wild coming together once again for a stunning trade. During the NHL Draft they surprised fans when they exchanged, among other parts, Brent Burns and Devin Setoguchi. Last night’s trade that sent Dany Heatley to Minnesota and Martin Havlat to San Jose in a stunning one-for-one swap showed that Sharks GM Doug Wilson and Wild GM Chuck Fletcher weren’t done talking at the draft.
With Heatley landing on his third team in four seasons, the four time 40+ goal scorer is getting another fresh start after two straight disappointing postseasons in San Jose. Similarly, Havlat is headed to his third different team in four years as well except that he hasn’t been to the playoffs in his two season in Minnesota. With their backgrounds and their levels of talent, the talk around this deal and these players is fascinating.
For Heatley, getting a new start in Minnesota might be what he needs after a career low year that saw him score just 26 goals and 64 points. Michael Russo of The Star Tribune gets the word from Minnesota about what his arrival means to the Wild.
General Manager Chuck Fletcher is confident Heatley will fill the net.
“His track record speaks for itself,” Fletcher said. “He’s a proven goal scorer.”
And the Wild is starved for goals. In his end-of-the-season analysis, Fletcher believed the Wild had too many pass-first players. So on Sunday, he asked one of them — Havlat — to waive his no-move clause.
“Our lack of goal scoring is well-documented. Our inability or our unwillingness to shoot the puck is well-documented,” Fletcher said. “We wanted to change the mindset of our forward group.”
Last season the Wild ranked 30th in shots on goal and 26th in goals. Since entering the NHL, Heatley’s 2,126 shots rank 10th and his 325 goals rank third.
With Heatley looking for a new start on things after falling out of favor with fans in San Jose, he’s got a great opportunity to do it in Minnesota. With the sort of offense that he can bring and having a setup man like Mikko Koivu, that combination could give the Wild the sort of goal scoring they haven’t had since a healthy Marian Gaborik lit things up at Xcel Energy Center.
As for the Sharks, their addition of Havlat gives them something they’ve been looking for in a fast skating, potentially high scoring winger. According to CSN Bay Area’s Ray Ratto, moving Heatley out in favor of Havlat closes the book on one of GM Doug Wilson’s biggest gambles.
Heatley’s footprint in San Jose could have and maybe should have been deeper. He was Wilson’s biggest gamble ever — a player who hated where he was (Ottawa), didn’t want to go to a place that wanted him (Edmonton), and ended up in another (San Jose) that needed another sniper to replace the fallen Jonathan Cheechoo and the never-quite-was Milan Michalek.
It was a swing for the fences that never reached the warning track. Heatley became less and less vital as time went on, the Sharks improved around him without putting him or them any closer to a Stanley Cup than he was in 2007 with the Senators.
It was, in short, a deal for a right now that never came and still hasn’t arrived. It is supposed to be closer with the additions of Burns, Handzus and Jim Vandermeer, the promotion of Pavelski back to his preferred place in the line of succession, and now Havlat. But we’ve thought that before, and we’re not even sure that Wilson is done changing the guard yet.
With Heatley and Setoguchi out of San Jose and Brent Burns and Martin Havlat in, it’s a drastic shakeup for a team that has made the Western Conference finals the last two seasons. Teams that make it that far in the playoffs year after year don’t generally need big changes like that, but given how the Sharks still have yet to break out of the West and into the Stanley Cup finals perhaps this is the brand of shake up that they needed to get over the hump.
Strategy-wise, Wilson says that Havlat will fill a specific need for the Sharks.
“When we did the (Brent) Burns deal, we got the top-line defenseman we were looking for, but we lost some of the speed we need in our top-six forwards,” Wilson said. “We could move Joe Pavelski into our top six, which is where he belongs anyway, and we were able to fill his spot when he signed (Michal) Handzus, but we still didn’t have the speed guy we needed.”
For both teams, they’ve now got a lot of hope heading into next year. For the Wild, they have high hopes that they’ll start scoring goals and give Niklas Backstrom the kind of goal support he needs to carry them into the playoffs. For the Sharks, they’re hoping their chemistry experiment pays off with a Stanley Cup.