The long-awaited Dany Heatley deal is finally done - and yes, it was with the San Jose Sharks and yes, it was for former 50-goal scorer Jonathan Cheechoo, another player searching for a new NHL home.
On Saturday, the Senators completed a blockbuster deal that should pave the way for a far smoother season, acquiring not just Cheechoo, but also emerging power forward Milan Michalek in exchange for Heatley, the two-time 50-goal scorer, who demanded a trade at the end of last season.
The Sharks also sent Ottawa a second-round pick in 2010, while San Jose gets Ottawa's fifth in the same draft.
Cheechoo has fallen on hard times of late, after scoring 56 goals in the 2005-06 season, to lead the league. That was the year the Sharks acquired Joe Thornton, arguably the best playmaker in hockey. Cheechoo and Thornton developed exceptional chemistry that year, with Cheechoo able to find openings and score a lot of goals from close range.
However, Cheechoo has been slowed by surgery two years ago for a sports hernia, which appears to have taken a step away from his game. Last year, he was used in a secondary role, having ceded his spot on the top line to Devin Setoguchi.
Michalek is the wild card, the sixth player chosen overall in the distinguished 2003 entry draft, a 6-2, 225-pound power forward who has, in the past, drawn comparisons to former Senators' star Marian Hossa. The difference is that Michalek has not scored as consistently as Hossa - and topped out at 66 points two years ago. However, he was a top-six forward on a Sharks' team that won the President's Trophy last year and figures to do the same with Ottawa.
Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said he had no qualms at all about adding Heatley, even if he had previously asked to be traded away from his last two NHL teams.
Wilson revealed that he'd investigated Heatley thoroughly with a number of hockey executives - he mentioned Steve Yzerman, executive director of Canada's men's Olympic team and Bob Nicholson, president of Hockey Canada by name - and received no red flags in his inquiries.
"There aren't many guys with his skill set in the league - that can score 50 goals," said Wilson.
"When you get a player of his caliber, it can only make you better - especially a highly motivated player, especially a guy coming into his prime. We just think it's a very good fit for us. It's a good deal for Ottawa at this time. It's an exciting time for Dany - just to focus on hockey.
"Getting this done before camp was very important for all parties too - doing away with the distractions and putting the focus on this hockey team."
Heatley said he knew a number of players on the Sharks' roster from previous Canadian national teams. In fact, last month, during the orientation camp for Canada's Olympic team, coach Mike Babcock put Heatley on a line with the Sharks' Thornton and Marleau. In addition, he'd also played previously in the Olympics with defencemen Rob Blake and Dan Boyle and in college with second-line centre Joe Pavelski.
Heatley acknowledged that he, Thornton and Marleau discussed the possibility that they might be reunited with the Sharks in a trade, a deal that came to fruition.
"There was talk about San Jose at the time," said Heatley, "and it was fun to get on the ice with those guys and play the (scrimmage) game."
Thornton, said Heatley, is "very excited to be in San Jose - and I'm excited to be his teammate."
Heatley said he was notified of the trade around 2 p.m. Eastern by Sens' GM Bryan Murray and subsequently spoke to Wilson a few minutes later.
"It's better for both sides," said Heatley. "Everyone's happy that it's resolved and that we can move on."
As to Heatley's ability to fit into the team, Wilson said: "We're completely comfortable with the type of player Dany is; and more importantly, with the type of person he is.
"There are often cases where players have asked for trades …. Sometimes, it is best for everybody involved. We have zero concerns about that. We're excited about where he is today - and where we're going."
In acquiring Heatley without giving up either Thornton or Marleau, the Sharks now have exceptional depth among their front-line forwards, something that could spell salary-cap issues down the road. Among the three of them, they gobble up above $20-million in cap charges, although Marleau is an unrestricted free agent after this year.
Heatley, 28, finished ninth in the league in goals (39) while playing in all 82 games for Ottawa in 2008-09. He ranked third on the team in points (39-33=72) and led the team in both power play (15 - 7th in NHL) and game-winning goals (6).
The seven-year veteran has appeared in 507 career regular season games with Ottawa and Atlanta. During that span, he has registered 543 points (260-283=543) and 99 power play goals. He's surpassed the 40-goal plateau four times and twice hit 50 goals (2005-06 and 2006-07).
In three trips to the postseason, Heatley has posted 35 points (10-25=35) in 34 games. He appeared in the Stanley Cup Finals in 2006-07 and was tied for the postseason lead with 22 points (7-15=22).
Heatley won the Calder Trophy and was a member of the NHL All-Rookie Team in 2002. He was named to the NHL First All-Star Team in 2007 and the NHL Second All-Star Team in 2006. He has made four All-Star Game appearances in his career (2003, 2007, 2008 (did not play), 2009).
He has represented Canada at several international tournaments including the Olympics (2006), World Championships (2002, 2003-gold medal, 2004-gold, 2005-silver, 2008-silver, 2009-silver), World Cup of Hockey (2004) and World Junior Championships (2000, 2001). He is the all-time leading goal and point scorer for Team Canada and was named World Championships MVP in 2004 and 2008. He was also invited to attend the selection camp for the 2010 Canadian Olympic Hockey team.
Prior to his NHL career, Heatley spent two seasons at the University of Wisconsin from 1999-2001. While there, he garnered several accolades including being named to the following: WCHA First All-Star Team (2000); WCHA Rookie of the Year (2000); NCAA West Second All-American Team (2000); WCHA Second All-Star Team (2001); NCAA West First All-American Team (2001).
The six-foot-four, 220-pound winger was originally selected by Atlanta in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft (1st round, 2nd overall). He was traded to Ottawa in exchange for Marian Hossa and Greg DeVries on Aug. 23, 2005.
Cheechoo, originally selected in the second round (29th overall) by the Sharks in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, leaves ranked fifth on the Sharks all-time points list with 291 (165 goals, 126 assists), third in goals and 10th in games played (440). He also notched 304 penalty minutes and scored 62 power play goals.
He has scored the fourth-most goals of any player who has entered the NHL since his rookie season in 2002-03 and won the 2006 Maurice "Rocket' Richard Award as the NHL's top goal scorer, setting a Sharks franchise record with 56 goals.
In 317 career NHL games, all with San Jose, Michalek has posted 214 points (91 goals, 123 assists) (ninth on the Sharks all-time list) and 184 penalty minutes.