|Senators head coach Cory Clouston said earlier today he was surprised when he first learned that forward Dany Heatley had requested a trade (Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).
Slowly but surely, the clock is ticking ever closer toward the start of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
But the Ottawa Senators don't see the draft as a deadline to finalize any deal for disgruntled forward Dany Heatley, who has asked for a trade to another National Hockey League team. Rather, general manager Bryan Murray continues to sift through the offers, waiting patiently for the right one that will make him pull the trigger.
Assistant general manager Tim Murray said earlier today "more than half a dozen teams" have put in calls to the Senators' hockey brass, expressing an interest in acquiring Heatley, a two-time 50-goal scorer. But Murray and Co. aren't ready to shake hands on anything just yet.
"Only if it's the right deal. I think Bryan has said right from the start that (it has to be) a deal that we're comfortable with hockey-wise," he said. "Ideally, (getting it done) before the draft would be great, no question. But we're certainly not going to make a deal just because the draft is approaching or July 1 (the start of the NHL free agency period) is approaching."
Much as the Senators try to focus on the draft itself, the Heatley talk won't go away. It's been that's way since the big winger requested a trade more than two weeks ago, citing differences with head coach Cory Clouston about ice time and other issues.
Speaking for the first time about it earlier today, Clouston said he had "no indication" that Heatley wanted out when the two last spoke just prior to his trade demand being issued.
"I talked to Dany once and it was a pretty decent conversation," said Clouston. "There wasn't any animosity between the two of us, which I think is a positive thing. Since then, I haven't spoken to him.
"My first reaction (to the trade request) was surprised, a little bit disappointed. Then you've got to move forward. You realize that whatever his reasons are, you've got to do what's best for the organization."
Clouston remains steadfast in his belief in the team-oriented approach that he emphasized after taking over on Feb. 1 from the fired Craig Hartsburg. The Senators posted a 19-11-4 record over the final 34 games of the season with Clouston behind the bench. They were 17-24-7 and struggling badly when he took the reins.
While the team went into the off-season riding on a high, Clouston said "it bothers me that a player like Dany, who is such a big part of the organization, all of a sudden doesn't want to be a part of that."
"But I'm still confident and believe that what we did was right and the proof is in the win and loss column and the proof is in how confident the guys played toward the end and how well they felt going into the off-season and how confident they are going into next year. That they still feel we're going to be a good club."
He isn't bothered that the Heatley camp has pointed the finger at him as the prime reason for the trade request.
"The biggest concern I have is with the dressing room," said Clouston. "Those are the guys I feel bad for. They've been here a lot longer than I have and they've worked hard and worked together. They were very close to winning a Stanley Cup and then this happens.
"I talked to Dany once and it was a pretty decent conversation. There wasn't any animosity between the two of us, which I think is a positive thing. Since then, I haven't spoken to him. My first reaction (to the trade request) was surprised, a little bit disappointed. Then you've got to move forward. You realize that whatever his reasons are, you've got to do what's best for the organization." - Cory Clouston
"But for myself to be painted as a scapegoat, I have no problem with that. I believe what we did was right for the team and that's the bottom line. No organization will win unless you have that team concept and that team focus and for the most part, we did that."
Now the focus turns toward what Heatley might fetch in a trade. Tim Murray said a package involving two players and a first-round pick "would maybe be optimum." With that thought in mind, he has alerted the Senators scouting staff to look beyond the No. 9 pick Ottawa currently holds in the opening round.
"If we get offered a pick (in a Heatley trade), whether it's an early pick or a later pick in the first round, we'll be ready for that because our staff has really done their homework," said Murray. "They know that potentially there's (another) pick there, so don't just quit at nine and worry about our second-round pick. You could be picking anywhere in the first round."
That being said, Murray made it clear "we're not giving (Heatley) away because he's made the demand to be traded."
"It has to be a good hockey deal or it won't get done," he said. "And then we assume, on Sept. 12, he'll show up at training camp and be a part of our team and go forward. And be a big part of our team."