Michael Russo has covered the National Hockey League since 1995. He has covered the Minnesota Wild for the Star Tribune since 2005, after 10 years of covering the Florida Panthers for the Sun-Sentinel. He uses “Russo’s Rants” to feed a wide-ranging hockey-centric discussion with readers, and can be heard weekly on KFAN (100.3 FM) radio and seen weekly on Fox Sports North.

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Digesting Heatley-Havlat trade

Posted by: Michael Russo under Vikings draft, Wild trade news Updated: July 4, 2011 - 3:52 AM
Well, that was fun.
 
Let me just give you a quick timeline of my night. So I’m in downtown Minneapolis watching my friend’s band when I get a text at 9:22 p.m. saying the Wild’s about to make a move. I call our main editor on the copy desk, Kevin Bertels, and tell him I’ve got something and let’s just pray it’s a minor-league move because I’m not home.
 
9:30 p.m.: I get an email telling me Dany Heatley for Marty Havlat is a done deal. I write back to make sure this source isn’t making some sick joke, he confirms the facts again, and I tweet it. I sprint out of the venue, run across Nicollet, dodge a bus and hop in a cab without even making sure it was empty of customers. While screaming my address at the driver (he had to think my wife’s water broke or something), I scream into the phone to Bertels “Heatley for Havlat, how much time do I have?”
 
He tells me 25 minutes for first edition. Remember, I’m not home, and the only thing that pops into my head: the last thing I did before I left home was shut down my computer. That’s a 5-minute ordeal right there. I get home, finally get the laptop cooking and write everything that pops in my head in 10 minutes for first edition.
 
Like I said, that was fun. And I mean it. Any sportswriter will tell you there’s nothing like the adrenaline that comes with an insane deadline. Here's the second edition story, incidentally
 
Sooooo, where to begin?
 
If you’ve followed me on Twitter the last few days, you may have noticed that I’d written to a few people I thought the Wild had something up their sleeve. In my blog late July 1, I ended the lead with this: “The goal of this team is to build from within, keep cap flexibility, fill holes internally, and when the time is right to hit that home-run with a truly top-end player via free agency or trade, pounce. When that is, we'll have to stay tuned. But I'd think that's at least a summer away.”
 
From the moment I published that line, I started to get indications from a number of folks that there actually could be some big news coming very early this week from the Wild.
 
So on early July 2, I emailed my editor, Mark Wollemann, that we needed to prepare for something. I just didn’t know the what, but I told him I hear it’s got the potential to be big.
 
In fact, I went out to watch the Twins game with local sportswriter Aaron Paitich last night. The entire time I was trying to figure out what the heck the Wild had up its sleeve.
 
I knew it couldn’t be a signing, meaning it had to be a trade. My two big guesses to Aaron: Zach Parise (despite Lou Lamoriello’s continued assertion he’s not going anywhere) or Marty Havlat to Florida because of the Dale Tallon connection and the Panthers’ willingness to take on big $$$$ this offseason. I had been asking everybody for two or three weeks if the Wild had asked Havlat to waive his no-trade. There was no doubt in my mind he'd waive it to the right team.
 
I did not see this coming though for one big reason. As Aaron can attest, I was told at the draft that the Wild could have taken Heatley if it wanted to in a bigger trade involving Setoguchi/Burns. It obviously didn’t happen, I figured the Wild just didn’t want Heatley and I put it out of my mind.
 
Now I know that what I was hearing was one tiny snippet of the correct information. The Wild couldn’t take Heatley at the draft even if it wanted to. As part of his original contract signed with Ottawa, Heatley was allowed to submit 10 teams this past July 1 that he would not accept a trade to. The draft was June 24-25, so those teams weren’t in yet. As it turned out, Heatley submitted the list, didn’t list Minnesota, and the trade could go through.
 
Earlier today, Havlat, who had been having ongoing discussions with the Wild for about a month to waive his no-trade according to sources, waived it to go to San Jose.
 
I was told tonight this trade was supposed to happen Tuesday and the Wild was caught off guard earlier this evening when it got out to a few of us.
 
Now, to the trade, I think the trade can work for both teams.
 
Havlat was the first big addition from Chuck Fletcher. It just didn’t work. He’s an immensely skilled player, but there just wasn’t that fit here. He didn’t see eye-to-eye with Todd Richards, and there was basically no chemistry between he and Mikko Koivu.
 
Now Havlat gets to go to San Jose, where he should be reinvigorated and get to play with top players. He said tonight: “I’m very excited that I’ll be going to a team where they’ve been one of the best teams in the whole league the last few years. I’m excited to be on a team with (a lot) of great players. It’s a big challenge for me.”
 
Havlat may thrive there, and as he's shown in the playoffs (especially in Chicago the spring before he got to Minnesota), be a big-game player there.
 
As for Heatley, I talked to Setoguchi tonight, and he was absolutely on top of the world. He and Heatley are close friends and he said he hung out with Heatley more than just about everybody there. In fact, he said he and Heatley were already dreaming about how cool it would be if they got to play on the same line here.
 
For that to happen, one would have to move to left wing. That will obviously be up to Mike Yeo. I’d think Yeo may want Pierre-Marc Bouchard on the left side because of his playmaking skills. Bouchard to Heatley could be magic, and that could give you two shooters – Heatley and Setoguchi – on the top two lines.
 
The big rap on Heatley the last few years has been his playoff performances. He’s scored five goals in 32 games in the playoffs for San Jose. We’ll see which Heatley the Wild gets, but I’d think we’re going to see a very motivated Heatley here.
 
When healthy, when happy and when motivated, Heatley’s as pure a goal scorer as there is in the NHL. He’s a point a game player. Since he entered the league in 2001, Heatley ranks first among all players in power-play goals (128) and game-winning goals (58), third in goals (325) and fifth in points (689).
 
Heatley's been picked and prodded his entire career starting with the tragic car accident in Atlanta that killed his teammate, Dan Snyder (ironically, I got to town with the Panthers right after that, so I wrote a ton about the incident at the time). He's asked off two teams.
 
Personally, I like Heatley as a player. When he's on his game, he's beyond dangerous. And I've never had a problem with him during interviews. And trust me, I’ve interviewed him a gazillion times dating back to those Atlanta-Florida no-defense days. He used to light those games up. And of course, he absolutely lit it up during the 2003 All-Star Game in Florida. He was MVP. So I’ve seen him on top of his game, and he’s got that incredible lethal ability.
 
But that was a long time ago. He's 30 now. Even though he's played 80 or more games five of the last six seasons, he's dealt with a lot of little injuries, from torn groins, to knees, to a broken hand that caused him to get numbing agents daily the last few months of last season, GM Doug Wilson said. Some say his hands aren’t the same, some say his skating stride isn’t the same, some criticize him for his fitness level.
 
But I think he’ll enjoy the fresh start here and the ability to be the key cog on a very new-look Wild team. Like Setoguchi when I spoke to him two minutes after he was traded, Heatley was apparently stunned tonight. But from talking to a very excited Setoguchi tonight, he sounded like Heatley was already looking ahead and excited about the new challenge.
 
I can tell you Setoguchi vouches for him both as a person and as a player, and he says Wild fans should be ecstatic right now.
 
Like I said earlier, I just don't see one harm in this trade. Havlat wasn't working here and could be exhilarated by a change. And they definitely needed a change in San Jose after losing so easily to Vancouver in the playoffs.
 
So I think this trade could work for both teams. San Jose gets a replacement for the lost speed in moving Setoguchi. And the Wild gets its first potential star since Marian Gaborik.
 
And also, this doesn’t affect the youth movement one iota. Not one player the Wild planned to give opportunity to in the fall will be boxed out by Heatley. He’s 30. Havlat’s 30. They just flip for each other.
 
The Wild continues to wait for its top prospects in a year, and maybe a fan base gets excited about this team again and about next year again. So that should help from a ticket perspective.
 
Plus, just perhaps, two things can happen: You start to infuse the young kids AND put forth a competitive team that can actually make the playoffs while you wait for those potential blue-chip prospects to arrive.
 
That'd be a novel concept, eh?
 
Oh, and Heatley's pops, Murray, played for the Fighting Saints. Just a tidbit of interesting info.
 
Anyway, it’s late. I’m going to bed. Chuck Fletcher and Dany Heatley will address the local media Monday and I'll be back.
 

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