In all likelihood the Dany Heatley sweepstakes will be resolved before or during the first round of Friday's NHL Entry Draft. One of the NHL's truly elite players will probably change homes, and we can only hope his new address is on Broadway.
Heatley encompasses everything the Rangers lack, an elite goal scorer who is also defensively responsible. Players like Heatley do not grow on trees. Heatley's 180 goals over the last four seasons rank third in the league behind Alex Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk. But he can be had. Unlike Marian Gaborik, one of the most injury prone players in the league, or Marian Hossa, whose destination seems pre-determined, Heatley is up for grabs.
Rangers fans have clamored for the organization to build from within for years. Yet this summer, the fanbase seems to have grown impatient and demanded that Gaborik or Hossa be acquired. Neither is the solution. The twenty eight year-old right winger from Ottawa is the answer to the Rangers' prayers.
The Senators are in a terrible bind. They know that Heatley is one of the league's premier talents. But he has demanded a trade, a request they intend to comply with, and it must be completed by the end of Friday night.
The Rangers are one of a handful of times that possess the means to acquire Heatley. They are willing to spend to the upper limits of the cap, and they have never been opposed to bringing in outside talent. But unlike the Rangers' moves of the last decade, trading for Dany Heatley is a surefire success. Heatley is in the middle of his prime and is a lock for at least five or six more 35+ goal seasons. There are few players in that category. The Rangers are one of the only teams that can take on Heatley's salary and still part with valuable young trade chips.
But how far should the Rangers go to get Heatley? Any deal must include one of the big contracts: Gomez, Drury, Roszival, or Redden. Obviously, the Senators wouldn't want Redden back. Ideally, the Blueshirts would package Gomez's nearly identical deal with a pick/prospect and Nik Zherdev to acquire one of the league's top snipers. But it's unlikely the Senators would want to absorb Gomez's huge deal. The Rangers would assuredly prefer to move Gomez but their most tradable player appears to be Roszival. The framework of a Roszival and Zherdev and 1st round pick deal is in the ballpark of what the Senators can reasonably expect back.
With a timetable on the deal and the $4 million bonus Heatley is due on July 1, it's impossible for the Senators to get equal value back for their superstar. That's where the Rangers may catch a break. For all of the failures of Glen Sather, the man is capable of acquiring superstar talent at a discount. He got Jaromir Jagr for Anson Carter; Eric Lindros for Pavel Brendl, Kim Johnsson, Jan Hlavac and a third round choice; and Pavel Bure for Flip Novak, Igor Ulanov, and first, second and fourth round draft choices. All of those deals were steals, and they tell us one important thing: Sather is not hesitant to move draft picks. That characteristic is a big part of Sather's problem, but it'll look a lot better if he can turn a pick into Heatley.
Several teams have reportedly been interested in Heatley. But the Rangers do have a few things working for them: a recent report that the Rangers are one of Heatley's preferred teams, a willingness to stretch the cap, bad contracts that can be swapped for Heatley's, and an endless desire to acquire superstar talent.
The Rangers have been down this road before. Lindros, Bure, Jagr, etc. have had storied careers conclude with the Blueshirts. But none joined the Rangers during their prime. Heatley, 28, would be the first since Mark Messier.
Heatley isn't a savior, but he would provide hope. In just a couple years, some of the Rangers fast developing prospect may join with Heatley to return the Rangers to prominence sooner than ever imagined.
Heatley has caught a lot of heat from the media and several general managers around the league for demanding a trade. He is quickly developing a "problem-child" reputation because he has now forced an exit from two teams. But it's wrong to blame Heatley for desiring a new atmosphere based on the tragedy that engulfed him in Atlanta. This most recent request is a little suspect, but I am quick to forgive a player who wants to be on the ice at all times and feels that he has more to offer a team than Ottawa is currently allowing.
Some people feel that it is wrong for Heatley to leave a rebuilding team instead of riding out the storm and growing with the new regime. That is not part of the job description of a hockey player. Heatley has no responsibility for the reconstruction of the Senators. He wants to win now, and why fault him for trying to get out of a bad situation? I am not concerned at all about Heatley's mental makeup. I see a competitor capable of scoring almost at will. That's what matters to me.
Kevin Baumer writes about college and pro sports. He lives in New Providence, NJ.
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