Dany Heatley set to fully embrace role as Wild's go-to scoring threat
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Shock waves were still being felt Monday after the Minnesota Wild pulled off a deal Sunday night with the San Jose Sharks to bring in forward Dany Heatley in exchange for winger Martin Havlat.
It was a move that surprised even Heatley.
"I was caught a bit off-guard," Heatley said. "I knew it was a possibility with my contract and the way it works. But I'm moving on. I'm feeling good today and I'm excited about it."
Four years removed from his back-back 50 goal seasons with Ottawa, Heatley remains one of the top scoring wingers in the NHL. But his production waned slightly in his two-year tenure with the Sharks. After totaling 39 goals and 43 assists in 2009-10, his points totaled dropped by 18 last season in a year he was slowed by injuries.
Concerns about his potential offensive decline aside, the nine-year NHL veteran is the type of shoot-first winger the Wild desperately need. Heatley, who is now with his fourth team, will be looked to as his new team's go-to scoring threat - a role he is set to fully embrace.
"As a goal scorer and a player you want to be that guy," Heatley said. "I think anytime you get traded it's a fresh start. I'm excited to play with a lot of those guys in that room and excited to get going."
In 2010-11, the Wild ranked last in the league in shots on goal and 26th in goals scored. They are trying to remedy that quickly this off-season as the additions of Heatley and fellow forward Devin Setoguchi, who was traded to the team two weeks ago, can attest.
"Our lack of goal scoring is well documented," general manager Chuck Fletcher said. "Our inability or unwillingness to shoot the puck is well documented. We wanted to change the mindset of our forward group and I think adding and Dany and Devin Setoguchi we've acquired two players who will complement the players on our team well."
On paper, trading Heatley for Havlat seems to offer similar returns for both teams.
"You look at this trade; it's two pretty good hockey players trading places," Fletcher said. "We traded a 30-year-old skilled offensive winger for a 30-year-old skilled offensive winger."
But it goes much deeper than that. Havlat never fully fit into the Wild's offensive system in his two years with the team. Although he led the Wild in scoring last season, the Czechoslovakia native had a preference to pass, instead of being the preeminent scorer the team was hoping for.
Similarly, Heatley struggled to match the lofty expectations the Sharks had set when he signed a five-year, $7.5 million per season deal in 2009. A potent scorer in the regular season, Heatley statistically disappeared in San Jose's last two playoff appearances. However, the Wild are hoping the oft-maligned winger is now in a situation where he will have more freedom and leeway to create scoring opportunities.
"We're always looking for the right fit and there are situations where some players fit into one team better than another," Fletcher said. "Both teams had to give up a pretty good player to get the right fit."
While Fletcher isn't ruling out that more deals could still be on the horizon, the third-year general manager is confident the recent moves he made will go a long ways in considerably improving the Wild's chances of breaking their three-year playoff drought.
"Our plan was to aggressively add as many young assets as we could and to find a way improve the offensive capabilities of our club," Fletcher said. "I certainly feel we're a team that can go into training camp and be competitive and start the process of being a better team."