'No' vote draws heat
Senator not afraid to use veto power
Even now, it’s a safe bet that Dany Heatley will get traded to a good NHL team, which is what he wants, and he made it clear again last week that the only thing important to him is that he gets what he wants. That hardly makes Heatley a maverick among the legions of self-absorbed athletes who fill the rosters of professional teams around the world, but he sure has come up with a novel approach to make himself the game’s No. 1 ingrate.
“The Most Hated Man In Hockey’’ is how tsn.ca, the top-notch Canadian sports website, headlined a story on Heatley last week, after he refused to waive his no-trade clause with the Ottawa Senators.
It’s hardly news, or even an affront, for hockey players to cling to their no-trades. It’s their right, something they bargained for, and fans and general managers alike have grown to accept that players rarely relinquish their right to live and work where they want. Dan Boyle was perturbed a year ago when Tampa Bay’s new owners made it clear that his no-trade meant little to them, forcing him to OK his trade to San Jose. Based on the continuing train wreck in Tampa, Boyle should spend this holiday weekend filling out thank you notes to Len Barrie and Oren Koules, Tampa’s co-lunkheads in ownership, but that’s a story for another day.
Heatley wants out of Ottawa. He made that public about three weeks ago, including in his reasons that he disliked the coaching style/choices of new Senators coach Cory Clouston. GM Bryan Murray, about to enter the final year of his contract, said he would do his best to accommodate Heatley, knowing full well that any GM’s bargaining power is less than that of a Florida homeowner with a backyard alligator pond when a player tells the world he wants out of Dodge.
Nonetheless, Murray struck a deal with Edmonton. Not a great deal, but given the circumstances, not bad. The Oilers agreed to send two forwards, the speedy Andrew Cogliano and the slow-footed Dustin Penner, and promising defenseman Ladislav Smid to the Senators for the high-scoring Heatley. It was a classic half-dollar (Cogliano) and two quarters (Penner and Smid) swap for the one dollar that is Heatley, a two-time 50-goal scorer. But considering Heatley’s wage ($7.5 million) and his eroding image, a pretty good deal.
Until Heatley said no. Twice! He told Murray the day the GM made the deal that he wouldn’t go to Edmonton. About 24 hours later, after thinking it over and talking with freinds, he said no again.
“The option he has now,’’ said a steaming Murray amid a gaggle of print and electronic reporters, “is Ottawa.’’
We know that’s not true. Senators fans don’t want him back in the Red and Black. Oilers fans, with barrels of tar and feathers left over from the day Chris Pronger begged to leave town, truly hate “The Most Hated Man In Hockey,’’ and they didn’t even get to know him.
Meanwhile, the Senators, who paid Heatley $10 million last season, last Wednesday ponied up the $4 million more he was due as a signing bonus. They’ve forked over $14 million in the last calendar year and now contend, if they can find a deal, the return will have to be better than what Edmonton offered. Fat chance. The rest of the league will cry the same tears over that payment that Las Vegas casino operators spill when hard-luck gamblers show up with their stories of woe and plead for mercy. You gambled. You lost.
Heatley, who asked out of Atlanta after he barely avoided a jail term for his role in the car accident that killed friend and teammate Dan Snyder, now has asked out of two teams. He has twice opted not to demonstrate the same kind of mercy shown him by Thrashers GM Don Waddell, the Fulton County (Ga.) court system, and, more recently, by Murray. Born in Germany, he ran the risk, by the way, of being deported by the United States for his hand in Snyder’s death.
For a kid with a load of talent and a rich revenue stream, Dany Heatley has the world on a string. What he has to learn, and soon, is that there will one day be a price for keeping everyone around him at the end of it.
Return ticket for ToivonenEx-Bruins goalie Hannu Toivonen, dealt to the Blues for the ever-absent Carl Soderberg (not interested in Boston’s development camp this week), signed a two-way contract with St. Louis for 2009-10 after rebuilding his game last season in Finland (Ilves Tampere).
“He wants to give it another shot,’’ his agent, Bill Zito, said in an e-mail. Zito also represents Tim Thomas, who became a star in Finland before getting his big break with the Bruins.
Toivonen, 25 and a former first-round draft pick, had his game collapse with the Blues in 2007-08, then this past season played his most games (56) as a pro, going 19-23-9 with Ilves, with a 2.68 goals-against average and .910 save percentage. If he can stick with the Blues, who will have Chris Mason, Ty Conklin (ex-UNH), and the towering Ben Bishop (ex-UMaine) as his competition, he’ll make a modest $600,000. In the minors, his wage would drop to $105,000.
Meanwhile, Soderberg remains in Sweden, where he is likely to stay for the foreseeable future.
“Good player,’’ said a longtime Swedish scout. “And a very bright kid. If he wanted, he could probably be a doctor. I just don’t think he wants to play in the NHL. I don’t think it matters to him, really. He’s sort of a prince over there, playing in a smaller league, and I guess that’s OK with him.’’
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at email@example.com; material from personal interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.