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Numbers Game: Heatley and Havlat switch places

Scott Cullen
7/3/2011 11:51:17 PM
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In a mid-summer one-for-one blockbuster trade, the San Jose Sharks and Minnesota Wild swapped a pair of enigmatic ex-Ottawa Senators wingers.

Numbers Game looks into the Dany Heatley-Martin Havlat trade.

The Wild Get: RW Dany Heatley.

Heatley, 30, had one of the more disappointing 64-point seasons in recent memory. Perhaps because his 26 goals tied his rookie season for his career-low (not counting 2003-2004, when he had 13 in 31 games); perhaps because he had three goals and nine points in 18 playoff games; perhaps because it was the first time since his rookie year that he didn't score at least 39 goals and 72 points.

When expectations are as high as they've been for Heatley, a subpar season doesn't escape close scrutiny.

Aside from the numbers, Heatley appears to have lost at least a step. His game has never been predicated on speed, but Heatley's conditioning has come into question and subpar results suggest that he's either not capable of getting into position to score at his previous levels or not willing to pay the price necessary to consistently get those chances.

Heatley's 2.71 shots on goal per game was his lowest since his rookie season (again, aside from injury-marred 2003-2004) and his shooting percentage (12.0%) was a career low (no exceptions).

If Heatley's playoff performances are part of the reason for his ouster from San Jose, it's worth noting that he has more playoff points (57) than Havlat (49) in one less game (67 to 66). However, Heatley has five goals in 32 games over his last two playoffs with San Jose, while Havlat has played in the playoffs once since 2005-2006, scoring five goals and 15 points in 16 games for the Chicago Blackhawks in 2008-2009.

This is a buy-low time on Heatley.

Maybe he's made enough money in the NHL that he's not going to be motivated to reverse this slide, but if Heatley does re-capture his previous form -- if new Wild head coach Mike Yeo can get through to him -- Heatley could be the best finisher the franchise has ever had. If he ends up skating on Mikko Koivu's wing, perhaps with a playmaker like Pierre-Marc Bouchard on the other side, there should be plenty of scoring chances available to Heatley.

Signed for three more years, at a cap hit of $7.5-million, Heatley is a pricey gamble for the Wild, but since they weren't getting the desired results out of Havlat, they're swapping one disappointment for another in the hopes of yielding a different outcome.

The Sharks Get: RW Martin Havlat.

Havlat, a skilled 30-year-old winger, has been underwhelming in two seasons with the Wild, recording the two worst minus ratings of his career (a combined minus-29 over the last two seasons) while scoring 40 goals and 116 points in 151 games.

Like Heatley, Havlat's peripheral numbers weren't particularly strong last year either.

Havlat's shooting percentage has declined in Minnesota, with last year's 9.6% representing a career-low, significantly lower than his 13.1% career rate.

Without looking at all 229 shots on goal he recorded last season, the implication could be that he hasn't been consistently getting quality scoring opportunities that come with aggressively taking the puck to the net (as opposed to shooting from a greater distance). That could be Havlat's doing; it could be a function of not having a quality playmaking centre, or some combination of the two.

With that decline noted, it should also be pointed out that Havlat tied for the team lead with 62 points and ranked second on the Wild in 5-on-5 shot differential (per 60 minutes, www.behindthenet.ca).

In San Jose, Havlat will have an opportunity to benefit from a stronger supporting cast. While it might not mean more than the 60-65 points that he might be expected to produce in a full season, it would seem highly unlikely for Havlat to remain a double-digit minus (he had been a plus player for six straight seasons prior to signing with the Wild).

Signed for four more seasons, at a cap hit of $5-million (longer commitment, lower cap hit), Havlat is a more complete player, bringing more speed, creativity and puck skills to the Sharks, while not having the same size or finisher's touch around the net that Heatley possesses.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.




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