|With the start of training camp less than two weeks away, the possibility of forward Dany Heatley continues to grow ever more likely. Sens GM Bryan Murray still has yet to find an acceptable trade for the forward, who has asked to be moved to another NHL team (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/NHLI via Getty Images). |
Ottawa Senators management is determined not to let the Dany Heatley situation impair its goal of putting a playoff team on the ice this season.
In fact, Senators owner Eugene Melnyk and general manager Bryan Murray both indicated today they believe that Heatley – who has requested a trade to another National Hockey League team – could still be an asset to Ottawa's cause if Murray is unable to find an acceptable deal for the two-time 50-goal scorer.
"If there are no other options ... look, he's a 50-goal scorer and if he can put 50 pucks in the net for us, I'd want him back," Melnyk said following a conference call with more than 1,200 Senators season-ticket holders, which aired live earlier today on Sens TV (Murray, Senators president Cyril Leeder and goaltender Pascal Leclaire also participated in the call).
Murray's feelings are similar as the Sept. 12 opening of training camp at Scotiabank Place draws closer with no Heatley deal yet in sight. He sees a player that, regardless of where he's playing, will push hard from the opening game to prove he's worthy of a spot on Team Canada's roster for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics.
"I have no problem with Dany Heatley," said Murray. "He's going to be a guy working hard to be an Olympian. I've never said that I wanted to throw him out of town by any means. We made a commitment to him a couple of years ago and we committed (six) years to him and suggested that he would help this hockey team going forward. I believe that's the kind of player he is.
"I'm just disappointed – and I've said this all along – that he suggested it would be better if he was moved to another team. But I think he can help this hockey team."
Murray doesn't believe Heatley's return would cause a major distraction among in the team's dressing room, though media and fan reaction would surely be intense.
"I can guarantee you the players and management and the team around the management group would never make it a circus," said Murray. "I really think he can come back here and play and, I believe, be absorbed back into the team very nicely. I think, for the most part, the players like Dany, think he's a good player and give him all kinds of time. I don't think that would be the issue."
But Melnyk agreed that the Heatley issue, which has been hanging over the Senators' heads for the entire off-season, has complicated Murray's ability to build his team for the coming season. While the Senators did sign free-agent forward Alex Kovalev in July, the uncertainly of Heatley's status has prevented Murray from adding other players to the roster.
"I have no problem with Dany Heatley. He's going to be a guy working hard to be an Olympian. I've never said that I wanted to throw him out of town by any means. We made a commitment to him a couple of years ago and we committed (six) years to him and suggested that he would help this hockey team going forward. I believe that's the kind of player he is ... I think he can help this hockey team." - Bryan Murray
"Everyone just wants to move on and figure out exactly what will happen next," said Melnyk. "Bryan's in a difficult position because there are players that are being traded and opportunities that we're missing and we've got (salary) cap issues.
"We just want to move on and get it over with one way or another."
While Murray hasn't given up on the prospect of a Heatley deal, he admitted he'll soon have to begin planning for a season that includes the forward in the Senators lineup.
"We have to, fairly soon, make a statement or declaration that if we're not going to get a deal done, Dany is coming back to training camp and to the Senators," said Murray. "I keep trying (to make a trade). I keep talking. We don't seem to be going very far. This has been going on since the draft (in June). Teams have indicated some interest – a couple of teams only – but we've never been able to even get what I consider an offer that I could consider. For the moment, I'm not very optimistic.
"I probably would be wise to (set) a deadline within a day or so and then stop trying. But I've got to at least do what's best for the organization and that is continue to work at it. And if something falls into place that we like or we think we like, then I would accommodate the player and his wish. But very definitely, we've got to look at training camp coming fairly quickly here, and I'd like the players and the coaches to know that we have a certain group of players coming in."