To recap the trade: Ottawa sends Dany Heatley and a fifth round draft pick in 2010 to San Jose for Milan Michalek, Jonathan Cheechoo, and a second round pick in 2010.
It’s obviously too soon to tell how this trade is going to work out, but overall I think I like it. Heatley had to go: if he had stayed, he would have been a huge distraction and that is the last thing this team needed. Bryan Murray told the media he realized once Heatley arrived in Ottawa that he had to make a deal sooner rather than later:
“I did spend some time with him yesterday. When I looked him in the eye I knew I had to trade him,” said Murray. “I just felt that we had to move him. As I said to Daniel Alfredsson, what we should care about here is the core of this hockey team. This will help the guys become a competitve team again.” (Ottawa Sun)
It sounds as though he felt Heatley’s attitude would be a problem the team could not overcome. Personally, I’m thrilled to see the guy gone — one major reason being that I was really sick of hearing trade rumours and being in limbo all the time. I can’t even imagine what it was like for the players. I’d really like it if the focus in Ottawa this season could somehow be on the team on the ice instead of some stupid off-ice drama.
As for the players coming back, I’m not jumping for joy but I’m cautiously optimistic, or at least intrigued. Jonathan Cheechoo (RW) is about six months older than Heatley, with a cap hit of $3 million and a contract that ends after the 2010-2011 season. I know he hasn’t been a stellar performer the last few years statistically speaking, but I watched the Sharks-Ducks playoff series this year and I was impressed with him. I thought he was one of very few Sharks players who played with any energy. I highly doubt he’ll ever score 56 goals again, but he’s far from a waste of a roster spot. Bryan Murray says Ottawa hopes to get 25 goals out of him, which seems possible — depending on where he plays. I think they’ll have to give him at least a chance at playing with Jason Spezza, just to see what happens.
I don’t know very much about Milan Michalek. He’s a 24-year-old LW, his cap hit is $4.333 million (he’s on the inverted Mike Fisher contract … yikes), and he’s signed until 2014. He’s put up 55 points or more in each of the last three seasons, which would have put him fourth in scoring on the Sens in each of those seasons (among players who spent an entire season with the team). A look at some Sharks forums reveals that Sharks fans consider him soft, but he plays well defensively.
All of this leaves the Sens with an interesting situation at forward, as Allen Panzeri sums up:
Depending on where Christoph Schubert plays – and he’s initially listed as a forward – the Senators now have 14 forwards on one-way contracts. Murray would like to add one of the rookies, such as a Zack Smith or a Peter Regin, to his roster, but that would mean he’d have to make a trade during training camp.
“If you can get the word out to the other teams that there are a couple that we can talk about at least, I’d be very happy,” said Murray. (Ottawa Citizen)
So these are the potential forwards (assuming Smith and Regin are the most likely rookies to make the team):
Nick Foligno (can also play C)
Jarkko Ruutu (can also play RW)
Christoph Schubert (doesn’t count)
Chris Kelly (can also play LW)
Ryan Shannon (can also play C)
Jesse Winchester (can also play C)
Just a tad uneven. If you put all the wingers on one of those justice-type balancing scales, the thing would tip over. From what I’ve read, Kovalev is not a good candidate to move to the left side. I’m unsure about Cheechoo and I can’t remember if I’ve ever seen Alfie move over there because I’m absolutely horrible at noticing who’s playing where. The bottom line, though, is that one of those three will most likely have to switch.
All this leads to interesting speculation about line combinations. Stayclassy.net, Silver Seven, The 6th Sens, Five for Smiting, and Black Aces have all already offered some analysis of the situation. My take: I think I’d try a first line of Michalek – Spezza – Cheechoo, and a second line of Alfie – Fisher – Kovalev (Alfie goes left because he’s that guy who’s always willing to try a different role). It’s unfortunate that the team still hasn’t been able to get a legitimate second line centre, but they might be able to mitigate the situation a bit if they tried moving Foligno, who played centre in junior and once or twice under Craig Hartsburg last season, to the middle on the theory that two third line centres is better than one third line centre and a bunch of fourth line centres. Who knows if Foligno would be comfortable as an NHL centre long-term though? At any rate, there’s room to shuffle this group around and, assuming some of them develop chemistry, this is a more balanced crop of forwards than Ottawa had last season. Except it leans to the right.
If Murray truly does want to see Smith or Regin in the lineup, then it’s clear that something has to give and it’s possible we’ll see another trade. I have no idea which of these players the Sens will consider most expendable (but maybe a RW, y’know?), or which might draw the most interest from other teams, or whether those two lists will intersect at all.
It’s also worth noting that the team has now committed about $39 million to its forwards — that’s 68% of the $57 million salary cap. They can’t possibly continue like this for much longer.6 comments