On the day the NHL season ended, if you'd listed all the contracts that absolutely positively couldn't be dumped on anyone by the time training camps opened in September, you'd probably have settled on two: Brian Campbell's eight-year, $56.8-million (all currency U.S.) deal with the Chicago Blackhawks and Dany Heatley's six-year, $45-million deal with the San Jose Sharks. Campbell's contract came in at a $7.1-million annual average and, even though he's coming off a decent season, it wasn't $7.1-million worth of decent. As for Heatley, whose contract runs out in 2014 and has a cap hit of $7.5-million a season, his struggles to score in the playoffs on behalf of a Sharks team that was entertaining Stanley Cup dreams were well-documented. Heatley had had two erratic seasons under his belt in San Jose. The plans to play him with Joe Thornton stalled at the end of the first season and in 2010-11, playing with Logan Couture and Ryan Clowe, the two-time 50-goal scorer sniped just 26 times in the regular season – and his playoff numbers were worse. Who, in his right mind, would take on those financial albatrosses? It just wasn't going to happen – that is, until it did. Campbell went to the Florida Panthers at the draft and then Heatley was swapped to the Minnesota Wild for another underperforming star, Martin Havlat, on Sunday night, completing a wild first weekend in what was aptly described as a frenzy, free-agent and otherwise. Heatley and Havlat played together for one year with the 2005-06 Ottawa Senators, although Havlat's season was shortened to 18 games by an early season shoulder injury. But Heatley had a sensational debut in Ottawa, scoring 50 goals and 103 points in his first year in a Senators uniform – and the next season was even better – 50 goals and 105 points. That seems like an eternity away, but in reality, it happened just four years ago. Could the bottom have fallen that much out of Heatley's game in four years? Clearly, the Wild figured that some version of those totals remain a possibility for Heatley, which is why they were willing to roll the dice and hope that yet another change of scenery – this time back to hockey country, where the scrutiny is significant – can get his game back on the rails. Heatley had a limited no-trade clause in his contract with the Sharks, permitting him to list 10 teams he wouldn't go play for. Minnesota wasn't one of them. So now, he'll hook up with a team that also acquired his former Sharks teammate Devin Setoguchi at the draft in the deal for hard-shooting defenceman Brent Burns.
Trading the untradeable
The Globe and Mail | Jul 5