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Eric Duhatschek

What's next for Heatley? Add to ...

So you wonder if, at some point, the San Jose Sharks will take the same desperate steps as the Edmonton Oilers did back in the middle of the summer and in a very public way say thanks but no thanks to a possible trade for Dany Heatley.

Until that happens, the rumour mill will probably continue to churn - as it did Thursday night, when ESPN reported the completion of a three-way trade involving the Sharks, Ottawa Senators and the Los Angeles Kings, a deal that was roundly denied all around.

Still, one can imagine that Senators general manager Bryan Murray will be feverishly working the phones for the next 24 hours to make something happen - on the grounds that trading Heatley in advance of training camp is the surest way to limit the disruptive effects of the drama on the team's 2009-10 season.

Assuming, however, that nothing changes today - and the offers don't get any better - then Heatley will presumably report to Ottawa, as promised, and face a dilemma.

Does he make his unhappiness known at every moment, on every shift, in every inch of his body language? Or does he take captain Daniel Alfredsson's advice and work as hard as he possibly can on behalf of his current team, and in that way, perhaps expedite the exit that he so desperately wants?

For sure, it will be awkward at the start.

Awkward for Heatley to run through all the reasons he wants out, most of which stem from his frosty relationship with coach Cory Clouston, none of which have changed this summer.

Awkward for the Senators, who have an unhappy $7.5-million (U.S.) player on their hands, but refuse to give away an elite player and receive next-to-nothing in return. That's just not smart business.

It is a stalemate, an impasse and you'd have to think the only way it gets resolved is for Murray and Heatley to have a one-on-one heart-to-heart meeting in the next few days with Murray laying it on the line. He'll advise him to him to come to work every day, play hard, say nothing publicly about his "diminished" role on the team and do whatever it takes to restore his reputation as a top player in the NHL.

In turn, that will make it easier for Murray to make the sort of deal he wants to make. Because realistically, that is the only way for the Senators to get something tangible in return for Heatley - if he becomes a productive player on the ice and a model citizen off the ice. If Heatley does that, sooner or later, somebody's going to need what he brings to the table - one of the half-dozen best natural snipers in the NHL. The NHL is all about second chances, especially second chances for the uber-talents of the game.

Now, it might not happen until next week. It might not happen until January. It might not happen until the trading deadline.

But about the only thing that's certain is what happens if Heatley goes the other way and pouts. If that occurs, you can be sure Murray will not be able to find any rival GM interested in taking on Heatley's contract, even if Ottawa's asking price drops.

It's just too risky.

In an era when most teams are spending to the salary-cap limit anyway, they need internal assurances that a player who will be atop the payroll list is going to lead them on the score sheet as well.

San Jose appears to have that faith, up to a point.

Maybe it's because general manager Doug Wilson is an Ottawa boy. Maybe it's because his assistant Wayne Thomas has a relationship with the Heatley family. The Sharks and Senators have been linked in talks for months now, but nothing's gone forward.

As the Sharks ponder their options (and radically altering the chemistry on a team that won the President's Trophy, but lost in the opening playoff round), the Senators and Heatley need to forge a fragile truce.

Both sides had better understand that they're in this together; and that each has a vested interest in making it work short term, in order to accomplish their mutual long-term goal - finding a new home address for the controversial 50-goal scorer and getting on with their respective lives.

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