A sniper's fresh start

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 5, 2011 - 9:15 PM

Dany Heatley, odd as it might sound, is a natural goal scorer out to prove he can still score in bunches for his newest employer, the Wild.

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Since he entered the NHL in 2001, new Wild acquisition Dany Heatley ranks 10th in shots (2,126) and third in goals (325).

Photo: Mark Humphrey, Associated Press

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Dany Heatley has asked off two teams and dodged a third, so the natural concern after the Wild executed Sunday's late-night Martin Havlat-for-Heatley swap was how the veteran sniper was coping with an unexpected trade that will take him from the San Jose sunshine to the Minnesota winter.

On Monday, Heatley perhaps calmed the nerves.

He sounded like a man motivated to resurrect his career and reputation, like a man hungry to score goals at a star's pace again and, maybe most important, like a man excited to be in Minnesota.

"I'm happy to be a Minnesota Wild," Heatley said. "I'm excited to play with those guys, in that room, to play in that city, in front of those fans. It's a great place to play hockey. I'm happy to be there."

The 30-year-old added: "Last year wasn't a great year for me personally. I want to get to that [top] level again in Minny. ... As a goal scorer and a player, you want to be that guy."

Heatley scored 26 goals and 64 points last season for the Sharks. That's not a down year for most, especially when you consider those numbers would have led the Wild.

But this is Dany Heatley -- a two-time 50-goal scorer, a point-a-game player, someone who possesses one of hockey's most toxic shots.

General Manager Chuck Fletcher is confident Heatley will fill the net.

"His track record speaks for itself," Fletcher said. "He's a proven goal scorer."

And the Wild is starved for goals. In his end-of-the-season analysis, Fletcher believed the Wild had too many pass-first players. So on Sunday, he asked one of them -- Havlat -- to waive his no-move clause.

"Our lack of goal scoring is well-documented. Our inability or our unwillingness to shoot the puck is well-documented," Fletcher said. "We wanted to change the mindset of our forward group."

Last season the Wild ranked 30th in shots on goal and 26th in goals. Since entering the NHL, Heatley's 2,126 shots rank 10th and his 325 goals rank third.

So Heatley's a "shooter," as is one of his best friends from the same Sharks team, Devin Setoguchi, whom Fletcher acquired June 24.

News travels to Finland

Captain Mikko Koivu, who surely will center Heatley, awoke in Turku, Finland, on Monday. He saw how many calls he'd missed and knew "something big had to happen."

"Then I saw we got Dany Heatley. I didn't see that coming at all," Koivu said. "Heatley, the numbers he's put up the last nine years, that can't be an accident. You really have to know how to score, and that was our problem."

Koivu added with a big laugh, "We know we're going to get some goals, but hopefully even more than we think."

Eventful past

Heatley does come to Minnesota with baggage.

In 2003, he was charged with vehicular homicide after his Thrashers teammate, Dan Snyder, died as a result of a car crash with Heatley at the wheel. Two years later, Heatley pleaded guilty to four misdemeanor charges and was sentenced to three years' probation.

Heatley eventually asked for a change of scenery. Traded to Ottawa for Marian Hossa, Heatley played four years there, potting 180 goals and helping lead the Senators to the 2007 Stanley Cup Finals. But in 2009, he'd had enough of coach Cory Clouston and asked to be traded again.

Heatley declined to waive his no-trade clause to go to Edmonton, putting Ottawa in a tough position. He was eventually dealt to San Jose in a one-sided trade.

Fletcher endorsed Heatley's character, though, calling him a "quality person." Heatley said much of his reputation is tainted by "being traded a few times in my career, and probably not the smoothest trades in history."

"He is misunderstood," Setoguchi said. "As a friend and not even a hockey player, he is one of the most genuine, honest people I've ever met in my entire life. Trust me, he's a good guy and his teammates love him."

Young Sharks star Logan Couture tweeted Monday that Heatley was a "great pro and tremendous teammate." Koivu was told the same thing by several of Heatley's former teammates Monday.

Sunday night, Heatley and Setoguchi already were talking about how cool it would be to play on the same line in Minnesota.

"We were joking, but obviously if there's one person on Minnesota that I would have the most chemistry with right now, it would probably be Dany Heatley," Setoguchi said.

Offensive potential for Wild

Wild coach Mike Yeo already has begun thinking about combinations. In training camp, he plans to experiment with a Pierre-Marc Bouchard-Koivu-Heatley line and a Setoguchi-Koivu-Heatley line.

"With any kind of coaching, these guys will be really good," Yeo joked. "I've said I want us to be tough to play against. You can do that in different ways. Obviously, that's defensively and physically, but I think we have guys who are threats offensively now.

"Let's face it, San Jose's been a very successful team the past few years and we got two key pieces from their team now. They've played the hard games, gone on the long runs and know what it takes to get there. I think that will push our group."

In fact, if you include recently acquired Philadelphia checker Darroll Powe, Fletcher has added three players with 154 career playoff games in the past 10 days.

Heatley admitted he was disappointed with a subpar three-goal postseason. Of course, he was playing despite a broken bone above the wrist and below the thumb -- a k a his trigger finger. But he vowed to come to Minnesota in "great shape" and "prove people wrong."

Remember, this was the first time Heatley was traded when he wasn't the one who initiated it. There's motivation now.

Setoguchi can't wait to get started with Heatley.

"Going into a new team, going into a new atmosphere, you're almost like stepping into foreign ground that you don't know," Setoguchi said. "So to step into it with a player that's so respected around the league and one of my best friends, it's going to make the transition a lot easier for both of us."

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