Amid the opening days of the NHL’s annual free agent frenzy, the Dany Heatley saga turned more ugly.
Prior to the July 1 opening date for unrestricted free agency – also the date Heatley was owed a $4 million bonus – the Ottawa Senators were working on a deal with the Edmonton Oilers that would’ve shipped the disgruntled winger to the Oilers in exchange for forwards Dustin Penner and Andrew Cogliano as well as defenseman Ladislav Smid.
The talks between the Senators and Oilers were done with the full knowledge of the Heatley camp, but evidently it wasn’t happy with the deal and attempted to broker another with the New York Rangers, who’d dealt high-priced center Scott Gomez to Montreal on June 30, thus giving them cap space to afford Heatley’s $7.5 million-per-season salary.
Oilers GM Steve Tambellini isn’t willing to give up on landing Heatley, but admitted that will depend on the winger.
Heatley’s unwillingness to go to Edmonton has handcuffed any efforts on the part of Murray to dive into the free agent pool. As long as Heatley’s salary continues to eat up valuable cap space, there’s little room for Murray to sign any free agent help for his roster. The longer this drags on, the slimmer the pickings in the UFA market.
Heatley’s stubbornness to stick to his list of preferred destinations has, as the Ottawa Citizen recently suggested, blown up in his face, as the teams on his list lost interest.
The Kings, Blackhawks, Wild and Rangers were on Heatley’s “wish list,” but since July 1, they’ve filled their needs with Ryan Smyth, Marian Hossa, Martin Havlat and Marian Gaborik.
Only the San Jose Sharks are rumored to still have some interest – especially now that they wouldn’t have to add that $4 million bonus into the equation – but that’ll depend on the Senators’ asking price.
It’s also been an uncomfortable situation for Penner, Cogliano and Smid, as they now face uncertain futures with the Oilers.
Their names being reported as part of the potential return in the failed Heatley trade will certainly stoke speculation one or more could end up dealt before the start of training camp this fall.
This situation remains a stand-off between Senators management and the Heatley camp, one that could not only drag on throughout the summer, but potentially into training camp and the start of next season.
Heatley is within his rights to reject a trade to Edmonton, but he’s done perhaps irreparable damage to his reputation and unless he’s willing to be flexible in his trade preferences, he could find what had been a limited market shrink ever smaller.
• The Boston Bruins limited cap space continues to add fuel to rumors GM Peter Chiarelli will dump some salary via trade, presumably that of restricted free agent Phil Kessel, who is believed to be seeking between $4 and $5 million per season.
Chiarelli has also apparently backed off on claims he’d match any offer sheet sent to Kessel.
As for the ”Kessel-for-Tomas Kaberle” deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs that appeared imminent during the NHL entry draft weekend, the Toronto Sun not only reports that deal appears all but dead, but Leafs GM Brian Burke suggested interest in Kaberle from other clubs has cooled.
Given the Leafs have moved Pavel Kubina to Atlanta and added shutdown defenseman Mike Komisarek, it seems unlikely Burke will move his only remaining experienced puck-moving defenseman.
In other news:
• Chicago Blackhawks GM Dale Tallon recently said he was looking for a defenseman and hinted at a trade by noting he had assets to offer up.
Tallon has plenty of depth at forward from which to deal, including Kris Versteeg, Dave Bolland, Dustin Byfuglien, Patrick Sharp and Andrew Ladd. The only real “untouchables” up front would be captain Jonathan Toews, scoring star Patrick Kane and the just-signed Marian Hossa.
• Tampa Bay management would like to add a second-line winger and a backup defenseman, but according to the St. Petersburg Times, they might address those needs via trade rather than free agency.
– The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Thrashers GM Don Waddell might not be done making trades in the wake of his July 1 acquisition of Pavel Kubina from the Maple Leafs. It is possible goaltenders Kari Lehtonen or Ondrej Pavelec could be used as trade bait.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Foxsports.com and Eishockey Magazine.