The entire NHL is going to be playing this game till Heatley’s dealt, so we might as well play along. I’ll suggest my own scenarios in this post – feel free to cheer, boo, hiss or suggest your own.
First, let’s establish that Heatley is a top notch hockey player, despite his recent blip. As Tyler notes, Heater had been excellent to elite at both ES and the PP for years before this season. And lest you think it was the notable supporting cast propping him up in Ottawa, consider his 25 goal rookie season in the hockey sink hole that is Atlanta and his 41 goal, 89 point sophomore effort. Those are eye-popping numbers for a 22 year old. He’s scored 40+ goals four times in his career and topped the 100 point mark twice.
I’m not going to comment on the supposed “character issues” that are being bandied about in the wake of Heatley’s trade request. They may very well be true, but I have no idea what’s going on behind closed doors. I don’t know what caused the Senators precipitous plunge into the netherworld of suck this past year or so, but I know it affected more than just Heatley, so I’m going to assume that his drop in points and shots on net is situational and therefore an aberration and therefore correctable. If not – if he has some kind of intractable attitude issue that cripples his on ice performance – then consider this discussion moot.
Anyways, to the meat of the matter – two things are true when it comes to the Flames acquiring Dany Heatley: one, it’s going to cost something significant in terms of value to the club and two the Flames will need to drop a chunk of salary to make it work. Grabbing another heavy lifter to play in the top 6 with Jarome would fill a need in my estimation, so it’s not an altogether terrible or outlandish scenario. Calgary’s top 6 was actually one of it’s primary weak spots (after goaltending) this season, and Heatley would definitely go along way to shoring up that area for the long run.
So who goes?
Option 1 – Dion Phaneuf
This is the most intuitive move and probably the one that’ll get the most play out talking heads and messageboards. Phaneuf took a significant step back in 08/09 and – injuries or not – doubt about whether he’ll ever be able to develop a better than average defensive game is starting to creep into a lot of minds around the league. At 6.5M, Phaneuf has to be more than a 2nd pairing offensive weapon in order to provide value for his contract. The Flames had the most expensive blueline in the NHL last year, but were the worst club to make the play-offs in terms of GA. Phaneuf had a lot to do with both numbers.
The two players salaries nearly cancel each other out and acquiring Phanuef would address a siginificant need for the Sens, due to their lack of a legitimate PP quarterback (with apologies to Filip Kuba). Of course, the deal would create a similar hole in the Flames back-end.
Option 2 – Jokinen + defender (Sarich) + futures
While the Flames could probably swap Phaneuf for Heatley in a one-for-one deal, anything else they could offer (outside of Jarome) would have to be some sort of package. Olli Jokinen’s brief career as a Flame hasn’t been a notable one thus far. Aside from a four game outburst and a single notable play-off effort, Jokinen was poor to abysmal in Calgary colors. Twice dealt by offense starved clubs for other needs (red flag!) in the last two years, Jokinen’s impressive goal totals are fairly deceiving: unlike, say, Datsyuk, Jokinen doesn’t produce well in all circumstances. For a majority of his career, Jokinen has required favorable circumstances to be effective – match-ups against lesser lights, lots of PP time, lots of offensive zone draws, etc. He’s terrible at winning face-offs, average at best in his own end and his output has steadily fallen since peaking in 06/07. He’s never once scored more than 40 goals and he’s a cumulative -85 over his career. His ESP/60 rates over the last two seasons were nominal (1.73 and 1.81 respectively). To put those numbers into perspective, Brett MacLean scored at a rate of 1.75 ESP/60 in 07/08, while Daivd Moss scored at a rate of 1.87 ESP/06 in 08/09.
Now that my character assasination is complete, I should note it would be my hope that the Sens wouldn’t know (or wouldn’t care) about any of this. His reputation as an offensive weapon could probably get Bryan Murray on the phone, but it would take a few more assets to seal the deal. One would be a defenseman, since I think the Sens will want a blueliner no matter what (seriously…the drop off after Philips and Volchenkov is steep). Reggie would be suggested, Vandermeer would be countered and I would hope they’d settle on Sarich. Cory had himself a decent season all around for the Flames in 08/09, but he did it pimp slapping bottom-sixers from the 3rd pairing. The Flames don’t need to pay someone 3M+ a year to do that. The final item would likely be some sort of future, be it prospect or pick. Sutter doesn’t have a first round choice to barter with (at least, not for awhile) so guys like Backlund, Negrin, Nemisz and whoever they pick this year would be in play. For arguments sake, let’s say Nemisz. Flames clear some cap room, get rid of Jokinen, shore up their relatively lackluster left side, but lose a stable defender and a potentially significant piece of the future. Good deal? Bad deal?
Option 3 – Robyn Regehr + Dustin Boyd + futures
Ottawa is going to get some sexy offers this summer. As a result, they’re going to want to swing for the fence when it comes to the return. And though they have a couple of capable shut-down defenders (already mentioned), Robyn Regehr is roundly recognized as one of the best in the biz and he’s signed, long-term, to a relatively decent contract for a player of his consistency and quality.
Problem is, of course, he’s essential to the Flames success. No one else on the roster does what he does as well as he does. He’s been taking on the tough assigments for years and surviving. Moving him means hoping the remaining cast could step up in his absence – a big gamble given the current state of Phaneuf’s game. Risky, risky.
I threw Boyd in there because he’s the type of player that is often included in package deals to “sweeten the pot”: young, cheap and with favorable amateur production and a “projectable” set of skills. He’s cheap enough so it wouldn’t matter if he didn’t progress much, but he’s a surer thing than a prospect. GM’s love getting those guys as an add-on.
Although none of these speculative deals are likely, option 3 is even less so than the others: not only is the club high on Boyd and dependent on Regehr but…Reggie has a NMC. And I doubt he’d waive that to go to Ottawa (nor would I blame him). Of my three options I wold grant #1 as the most probable to be accepted and #2 as the most desirable from a Flames perspective. Would you do all of these? None? Can the Flames afford another big ticket up front? I’ll admit, as good as Heatley is, I can’t help but feel ambivalent about the Flames potentially chasing him.