1. Heatley Requests Trade
The Stanley Cup hangover is a phenomenon that many in the hockey world swear to be true. In the recent past, teams that played in the finals have had a difficult time replicating their success the following season regardless of whether or not they hoisted the Cup (this year’s finalists notwithstanding). Prior to this postseason, the last time a team competed in their second of back-to-back finals was 2001, when the New Jersey Devils were beaten in seven games by Colorado. Fatigue is often cited as a factor, as a cup finalist will play anywhere from 16 to 28 more games than non-playoff teams. Another factor is that teams who enjoy postseason success often see their free agents poached by competing GMs willing to pay inflated rates for playoff experience. Regardless the cause, even the best teams usually experience a bit of a downturn the year after a cup run.
The Ottawa Senators, however, are suffering through a cup hangover for the ages. After losing to the Ducks in six games in the 2007 Stanley Cup Final, the Senators franchise has completely come apart at the seams. Even the guys from The Hangover recovered faster than the Senators, and they woke up with a tiger in their bathroom and a baby in the closet. To wit, in the eight seasons leading up to and including 2006/2007, the Senators averaged just more than 104 points a season. Their goal differential over that time was a sparkling +522. In the two seasons since, the Senators have managed 94 and 83 points, respectively, and have been outscored by a total of six goals. They missed the playoffs last season for the first time since 1995/1996. The franchise has been through two head coaches and three starting goaltenders the last two years, and Dany Heatley is apparently sick of all of it. Earlier this week the talented winger and his representation officially requested a trade out of Ottawa. According to TSN, Heatley and head coach Cory Clouston, who took over the team midseason, simply do not see eye to eye. The network reports that Heatley is upset at his reduced ice time and demotion from the first power play unit to the second.
The 2008/2009 campaign was a down year not only for the team, but for Heatley himself, at least by his standards. He scored 74 points in 82 games and ranked 62nd in the league in overall Goal Versus Threshold (GVT) with a rating of 13. He was the second-ranked Senator in terms of GVT, behind only captain Daniel Alfredsson and his 15.2 rating. By comparison, Heatley managed point totals of 105 (82 games), 103 (82 games) and 82 (71 games) in his first three seasons in Ottawa.
While this latest setback is a bit of a public relations fiasco for the Senators, it may actually provide a silver lining for the beleaguered Ottawa team, depending on what they can get in return for their disgruntled sniper. Heatley is only one year into a six-year, $45 million contract. Any potential trade partner must be willing to commit to Heatley for a cap hit of $7.5 million for each the next five seasons as the Calgary native’s contract includes a no-movement clause. However, Healtey is just 28 years old and should be coming into his prime. Therefore, the contract might end up being good value. There are likely to be at least a handful of potential suitors, and if GM Bryan Murray is able to successfully create a bidding war, the Senators may end up with a nice package of players and/or prospects.
The list of teams rumored to be interested in Heatley includes the San Jose Sharks, Tampa Bay Lightning, Anaheim Ducks and Edmonton Oilers, who at this point are rumored to be interested in just about everybody. According to reports, the Lightning would be willing to move Martin St. Louis and this year’s second overall pick while the Ducks may offer Corey Perry for Heatley. For his part, Murray has so far been unwilling to even acknowledge Heatley’s request. "We signed him to a long-term deal and we expect him to honour it. At this point in time he's a Senator," said Murray, according to ESPN.com. Whatever the outcome of the situation, a shake-up of Ottawa’s nucleus likely won’t be the worst thing in the world for the Senators and their fans. It’s about time they got the tiger out of their bathroom, so to speak.
2. NHL Entitled To Location Fee, Says Judge Baum
More so than Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin or Henrick Zetterberg, Judge Redfield T. Baum is the most influential man in hockey right now. Baum, the judge currently presiding over the Phoenix Coyotes bankruptcy mess in an Arizona court, will be largely responsible for determining whether the Coyotes remain in Phoenix or pack their bags for a move back to Canada.
Blackberry mogul Jim Balsillie is attempting to purchase the bankrupt team and relocate it to Hamilton, Ontario, an industrial city located southwest of Toronto. The NHL contends that Coyotes owner Jerry Moyes had no right to even file for Chapter 11 let alone negotiate a sale with Balsillie since the league had been functioning as de facto operator of the team for some time. Gary Bettman and Co. also contend that they have full jurisdiction when it comes to determining the locations of their franchises. The NFL, NBA and MLB have all provided the NHL with letters of support on the matter.
On Tuesday Baum stated that in order for the Coyotes to relocate to Ontario, the NHL would need to be provided with a relocation payment that could total more than $100 million. Should Balsillie be unwilling to pay such a fee, his bid would no longer be considered. Still, a day after the announcement, Balsillie claimed to be encouraged by the news. “However it works out, the issue of a relocation fee, while a new development, does move us one step closer to bringing the Coyotes to Hamilton,” said Balsillie on his website, makeitseven.ca.
Balsillie’s bid of $212.5 million for the Coyotes was already considered rather generous, considering the Nashville Predators were sold for $193 million in December, 2007, before the economy collapsed. Factor in the $100 million relocation fee, his proposed $150 million renovation to Hamilton’s Copps Coliseum and the untold expense of extricating the Coyotes from their lease at Jobing.com Arena and suddenly this venture is becoming a veritable money pit, even for a billionaire like Balsillie.
3. Nieuwendyk Drops Axe On Tippett
When Joe Nieuwendyk was named GM of the Dallas Stars last week, the presumption around the league was that Dave Tippett was safe in his role as head coach, thanks in part to the two men’s shared experience on Canada’s World Hockey Championship team this spring. However, it appears Nieuwendyk is going to be a much more ruthless GM than anyone had anticipated. Tippett was fired on Wednesday after six seasons behind the Stars bench. TSN reports that the Stars have asked permission to speak with Marc Crawford about their coaching position. The CBC analyst is still under contract with the Kings from his time as head coach of the club. Other pundits believe the Stars will investigate hiring recently deposed Canadiens bench boss Guy Carbonneau.
Nieuwendyk and Carbonneau were teammates on the Stars and remain close, so it would make sense that the new GM would at least talk to his old pal. If that possibility comes to fruition, one Star who may have mixed feelings about the hire is captain Brendan Morrow, who happens to be Carbonneau’s son-in-law. Morrow may have to be mindful of any jokes or comments made in the locker room with his wife’s father running the show.
4. Flyers Comfortable Living On Razor’s Edge
The Philadelphia Flyers raised eyebrows Wednesday when they announced the signing of free agent goaltender Razor Ray Emery to a one-year, $1.5 million contract this week. The hotheaded Emery spent last season playing for Atlant Moscow Oblast of the KHL where he posted a .926 save percentage and a GAA of 1.86. Emery was, for all intents and purposes, banished from the NHL after he wore out his welcome in Ottawa.
The outlandish netminder had numerous run-ins with police, was constantly late for practices and team events and was not a popular teammate in the dressing room. However, he can read the writing on the wall. Emery knows that if he proves incapable of behaving himself this season, his NHL days are likely over. “I know I have an opportunity and I’m not going to do anything to jeopardize that or make the people that are giving me this opportunity look bad,” said the goaltender at a press conference. According to Al Strachan of The Score, the Flyers signed Emery with the intention of making him the backup goalie to Martin Biron. Ironically, Biron and Emery once came to blows during a line brawl in February, 2007. At the time Biron was a Sabre and Emery a Senator.
5. News And Notes
In other NHL news, Brent Sutter has stepped down from his post as head coach of the New Jersey Devils. He cited a lack of family time as the reason, but the rumor mill has already begun churning that Sutter has his eye on the Calgary Flames’ vacant head coaching job. Sutter’s brother Darryl is GM of the Flames. However, in order fro Brent to join the Flames, Devils GM Lou Lamoriello would have to release him from his contract, and that’s no guarantee…
The Montreal Canadiens may soon have new ownership as two separate bids for the club came to fruition Wednesday. One came from Geoff, Andrew and Justin Molson of Molson Coors beer fame. The other, from Quebecor Media, came seemingly in response to the Molson announcement. Molson Coors already owns 20 per cent of the Habs and directly contacted majority owner George Gillett about purchasing his 80 percent interest as well as the Bell Centre…
The Washington Post is reporting that Sergei Fedorov may bolt the NHL for Russia’s KHL next season. "I know he's having some meetings with some teams from the KHL," Fedorov's agent Pat Brisson told the Washington Post. "So he's going to explore that and get back to me. In the meantime, I've spoken to Washington a couple times."
Bill Duke is an author of Puck Prospectus. You can contact Bill by clicking here or click here to see Bill's other articles.