Dany Heatley Returns to Ottawa

Published by Mark on Friday, December 3, 2010 — View Comments

MONTREAL, QC - JANUARY 23:  Eastern Conference...
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There’s successful, beloved, life-long Senators, including Daniel Alfredsson, Mike Fisher, Chris Neil.

There’s the flops too, the biggest 2 names being Alexandre Daigle and Alexei Yashin. Much was expected, though Daigle never lived up to expectations, and Yashin, though he performed well, seemed in a constant contract dispute with the team over one or another issue.

There’s the collection of players who held promise for the Senators, but weren’t in town very long. Zdeno Chara blossomed in Ottawa, but left for free agency. Ray Emery’s time was a tumultuous episode in Senators history.

And then there is Dany Heatley.

Of course, we recall Heatley had been involved in a horrible tragedy in Atlanta, having caused the death of teammate and friend Dan Snyder. And while he received support from both the Thrashers organization and the community, Heatley asked to be traded from Atlanta, hoping to move on from what must have been a terrible time for him, his family, and all around him. And the Senators were able to acquire him, because at the time, they had a player demanding more than they wanted to pay in Marian Hossa.

Heatley was able to make Ottawa fans forget Hossa. Marian Hossa was a popular player with the fans, and a skilled forward. Heatley had skills, and fit well with Alfie and a young Jason Spezza, creating a high-powered line that lead Senators fans on a wild ride almost all the way to a Stanley Cup. Together the three of them posted tallies seemingly at will. So much so that Pizza Pizza was almost losing money giving away free pizzas when the Senators won by 5 goals or more.

And then came Cory Clouston, and the summer of Dany Heatley’s discontent. In 2009, only 1 year into a 6-year deal, and unhappy with the role new coach Clouston had for him, Heatley demanded a trade from the Senators. Accusations flew, as GM Bryan Murray noted that issues had been discussed during the off-season, with no indication that Heatley would not accept the role he was given. His large salary and cap hit, along with a no-trade clause made Heatley a difficult commodity to trade. The situation was made worse when a deal between Ottawa and Edmonton was agreed upon, only to have Heatley veto it (making him hated in Edmonton also, a city who has seen its share of players ask to leave).

Ultimately, the deal with Edmonton would have yielded Andrew Cogliano, Ladislav Smid and Dustin Penner, and certainly would have been better for Ottawa. Instead the Senators were forced to accept a deal with San Jose, which brought back Milan Michalek, Jonathan Cheechoo (since waived, demoted to the AHL, then bought out) and a second-round pick.

In his return to Scotiabank Place, Heatley was indeed booed by his former hometown fans. He managed to pick up an assist during the game. Worse for the Senators, they were shutout 4-0, and struggle this season to stay in a playoff spot. It’s arguable the deal with Edmonton would have benefit Ottawa more, as the the 3 players included would likely be playing significant roles, whereas Michalek only is making a contribution this season. Not only had Heatley’s trade demand force the Senators to deviate from their plan, which would have included keeping Heater, Spezz and Alfie together, but the team is worse off because of having to take a deal, where a significant piece in Cheechoo did not work out at all, and Michalek cannot replace the offensive void left by Heatley’s departure.

Dany Heatley will not worry too much about the feelings of Ottawa fans, or the fate of his former team. What’s interested is to note that this player is a skilled forward, and could have been a legitimate star in the NHL. Circumstances both within and beyond his own making) have made him a controversial figure, one who has significantly affected the course of 4 NHL franchises for the near future.