Heatley reportedly wasn’t happy playing for coach Cory Clouston, who replaced Craig Hartsburg at mid-season and reduced the winger’s playing time, including moving him for a spell onto the team’s second power-play unit.
With five years and more than $37 million remaining on his current contract, Heatley’s decision sparked considerable vitriol from Senators fans as well as a few pundits slamming him as spoiled and selfish, even comparing his trade request to Alexei Yashin’s contract holdout a decade ago.
Not every pundit opted for character assassination. Chris Stevenson of the Ottawa Sun took the more sensible approach of suggesting Heatley’s request provides an opportunity for Sens GM Bryan Murray to not only free up valuable cap space, but also add much-needed roster depth.
It’s been suggested Heatley, a two-time 50-goal scorer, could net perhaps a puck-moving defenseman and a top-six winger in return.
Heatley, who has a no-movement clause, will have a say over where he could be dealt and it’s believed he would prefer to play for a Western Conference team, although his agent said his client isn’t fussy so long as he’s allowed to play a “significant role.”
Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, L.A., Anaheim and San Jose have been cited as possible trade candidates.
That’s given rise to wild trade speculation, with Dion Phaneuf, Roberto Luongo, Dustin Penner, Corey Perry and Patrick Marleau bandied about as possible returns, but it is highly unlikely those players will be swapped for Heatley, especially if the Senators’ concern is for depth and extra cap space.
Given the uncertainty over the salary cap for the next two years, the Vancouver Sun suggested Heatley could be one of several expensive players on the move this summer.
That may well be, but a stagnant cap could also mean teams trying to move high-salaried players might find a limited market.
At 28, Heatley is still in his prime and should attract considerable interest, but there are conflicting reports over how many teams have contacted Murray about his disgruntled winger.
One reason could be the $4 million bonus he’s due to get on July 1 whether he plays for the Senators or not.
That’ll put pressure on Murray to move Heatley before that date, but the GM could find interested parties more willing to wait until after then so as not to take on that bonus.