It’s probably safe to say Dany Heatley isn’t tossing and turning at night over the grievance filed against him by Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk.
And he shouldn’t be because all indications are Melnyk’s grievance is nothing more than a hissy fit by a rich guy who is upset because he didn’t get his own way.
As you might recall, unless of course you spent the summer on another planet, Heatley requested/demanded the Senators trade him, then had the temerity to invoke his no-trade clause when the Senators had a deal worked out with the Edmonton Oilers. And because Heatley was still Senators property on July 1, they were forced to pay him a $4 million signing bonus, money that Melnyk now wants to try to get back.
All of which makes Heatley a self-indulgent jerk.
But the fact remains Heatley did absolutely nothing that was in breach of the contract he signed in good faith with the Senators the year before. Nowhere in a standard player’s contract does it say a player cannot request or demand a trade and it’s not as though the Senators had to accommodate him. They could have told Heatley to either play for them or sit at home and rot for the first half of the season and miss out on a chance to play in the Olympics.
Heatley negotiated a no-trade clause into the contract and invoked it when the Senators attempted to deal him to the Oilers. Heatley was paid a $4 million signing bonus that he negotiated into the deal and happily took the money before being dealt by the Senators. Despite the trade demand, Heatley showed up for training camp and was prepared to do everything required of him until a trade could be worked out, which it was.
Where exactly was the breach of contract here? There wasn’t one on Heatley’s part and deep down Melnyk probably knows it. This is not a case of Alexei Yashin here. Yashin clearly breached a contract he had signed when he sat out the 1999-00 season and when he came back, the Senators successfully argued Yashin still owed them that year on his contract. Heatley did nothing of the sort.
It’s interesting that Melnyk is staking his claim to the moral high ground here, isn’t it? After all, isn’t he the same guy whose team signed Marian Hossa to a multi-year contract one day, then traded him to Atlanta for Heatley the next?
The NHL acknowledges the grievance has been filed, but has had nothing to say about it. What that tells this corner is the NHL knows a breach of contract when it sees one and is distancing itself from this whole thing because it knows Melnyk has absolutely no chance of winning.
Those close to the situation maintain Melnyk will have to take his place in the grievance line behind all the other ones that are pending and it will be a year or more before he is even heard. It’s more likely, at some point, Melnyk will be convinced by the league and others he doesn’t have a shred of a case here and will quietly drop it before it ever sees the light of day.
And that’s as it should be because Heatley has been guilty of a lot of things, but breach of contract is not one of them.
Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appear Wednesdays and Fridays and his column, Campbell’s Cuts, appears Mondays.
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