I go to school near San Jose, California and got to cover the Sharks when Dany Heatley returned to Ottawa for the first time as an opposing player.
I remember the hype around the game. Although it landed on the same day that LeBron returned to Cleveland (which, obviously, was a bigger event that day), both players and fans in San Jose were anticipating Heater’s return to Canada’s capital.
It was a disappointing night for the former Senator. His team won handily, 4-0, but Heatley recorded only an assist.
His return with Minnesota felt less significant.
Although he had the same impact in the game, he recorded an assist (and still was booed every time he touched the puck), his team lost 4-3 in a shootout.
The fact that the Wild lost, however, had little impact on the significance of the event.
Heatley just wasn’t the biggest part of the Minnesota-San Jose trades this year.
When he asked out of Ottawa, an upstart team that he had joined following an incident where he crashed his car and killed Atlanta Thrasher teammate Dany Snyder, he was not far removed from a President’s Trophy season with the Sens and was breaking up the CASH (Captain Alfredsson, Spezza, Heatley) line that was among the NHL’s most productive forward trios.
He was seen as the missing piece in San Jose.
However, since then he’s floundered.
Last season, the two-time 50-goal scorer only found the twine 26 times in 80 games with the offensive-minded Sharks and disappeared in the playoffs.
Certainly a 50-goal scorer is welcome in Minnesota, but I don’t think that’s what management expects of him when he was traded for.
It just appeared to be a logical move for the Wild. Martin Havlat wasn’t who he was supposed to be (a short-term replacement for Marian Gaborik) and both 30-year-old forwards were looking for a change in scenery before they passed their prime years.
The most important element of the Minnesota-San Jose trades this year was the younger players that were swapped.
James Sheppard, on paper, looks like he should be a superstar. However, the 9th overall pick in 2006 never panned out in Minnesota and, like Heatley and Havlat, needed a clean slate.
The Wild, in essence, swapped 23-year-old Sheppard for 18-year-old Zach Phillips who’s well trained (he is a member powerhouse St. John Sea Dogs in the Q) and will fill a relatively bare cabinet in the team’s minor league system.
Then, wanting to get some value for 26-year-old Brent Burns, who will be an unrestricted free agent next year (something they didn’t do with Gaborik), they swapped him for Devin Setoguchi, 24, a former first round pick that frequently shoots the puck—something the rest of the roster is reluctant to do.
It seems like at the end of the negotiations Minnesota GM Chuck Fletcher told San Jose GM Doug Wilson, ‘Hey Havlat’s been a disappointment. I’ll give you him for your disappointment, Heatley,’ and Wilson was like, ‘Sure, why the hell not?’
The Wild are going to contend if their players under 25—namely Guillaume Latendresse and Setoguchi—become major scoring threats.
By that time Dany Heatley may be playing for another franchise.
Tom Schreier covers the Wild for MinnesotaSNN.
Follow him on Twitter @tschreier3.
Email him at email@example.com.