|Jonathan Cheechoo, a former 56-goal scorer with the San Jose Sharks, was obtained by the Senators on Saturday along with Milan Michalek in a trade that Dany Heatley to the west coast (Photo by Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images).
In the end, Bryan Murray knew it was a deal he just had to make.
After a frustrating summer's worth of trade talks that went nowhere, the Ottawa Senators general manager finally found the right dance partner to accommodate forward Dany Heatley's request to be moved to another National Hockey League team. The two-time 50-goal scorer is headed west to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a pair of forwards, Milan Michalek
and Jonathan Cheechoo.
Ottawa also gets a second-round pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, while the Senators sent a fifth-rounder in the same draft to the Sharks.
The buzz at Scotiabank Place on Saturday morning was palpable as Heatley made his way into the building for the first day of Senators training camp. He went through the standard fitness testing and medicals but by the time he was done, Murray was beginning to put the finishing touches on a trade that ended his four-year run in Ottawa.
After meeting with Heatley on Friday, Murray felt there was only one course of action that would work for his team going forward.
"When I looked (Heatley) in the eye and talked to him, I knew the minute he walked out the door that I had to trade him," Murray said after announcing the deal. "I didn’t think there was any chance. I just felt we had to move him.
"Dany did report here (today). He’s been fine around the room. But as I said to (Senators captain) Daniel Alfredsson
this morning, what we should care about here is the core of this hockey team and how we can help the guys become a competitive team again."
Alfredsson and veteran defenceman Chris Phillips
had breakfast with Heatley on Friday morning and it was clear then that there was be no changing his trade demand.
"He was pretty clear about his stance," said Alfredsson.
Murray had the full support of Senators owner Eugene Melnyk to pull the trigger.
"He said 'Bryan, if you feel you have to do this deal for our team to be better or to make the room better, do it.' So I did it," said Murray.
Most importantly, he believes he's removed the potential daily distraction of Heatley trade rumours before training camp kicks into full swing. That means the players still here can move forward toward a new campaign with a clean slate.
"We've put the focus back where it should be and that’s on the people wearing the (Senators) uniform," said Murray. "We give ourselves a chance to be a tight-knit team. I think we’ve got a good core of people. We didn’t really need the distraction. I wish (Heatley) good luck. I hope he’s happy. I hope he plays well out there.
"But from this point on, we can move on and have our own life here in Ottawa and be happy that we’ve got a good hockey team."
In Michalek and Cheechoo, Murray believes he's obtained a pair of forwards who can slot in comfortably on the team's first two lines along with Alex Kovalev, the Senators' big free-agent signing of the off-season.
"When I looked (Heatley) in the eye and talked to him, I knew the minute he walked out the door that I had to trade him I didn’t think there was any chance. I just felt we had to move him. Dany did report here (today). He’s been fine around the room. But as I said to (Senators captain) Daniel Alfredsson this morning, what we should care about here is the core of this hockey team and how we can help the guys become a competitive team again." - Bryan Murray
"I think it’s a better team. I think we’ll be a harder working team," he said." We’d be remiss if I ever said we could replace the goals that Dany Heatley was able to score. I’m hoping that when we look at the whole mix, with Kovalev coming here and these two players, that we will make it up in other ways."
Michalek, a 24-year-old native of the Czech Republic, cracked the 20-goal and 55-point plateaus in each of his past three seasons with the Sharks. Cheechoo, 29, led the National Hockey League with 56 goals in 2005-06 but has seen that total drop every year since then to a career low of 12 in an injury-plagued 2008-09 campaign. Murray said he's "ambitiously looking for" a 25-goal season from Cheechoo.
"Jonathan has a history of being a good player," said Murray. "He certainly didn’t play to the level that we suspect he should play at on a regular basis. But we feel we have a healthy guy coming back and supposedly he’s had a very good summer.
"Are we taking a little bit of a risk? Maybe. But I do think he is a guy who can get back to the point where he can play on our top two lines and be a very competitive player."
Heatley, meanwhile, said he believed it was simply time for a change of scenery after four seasons that saw him produce 180 goals for the Senators.
“I want to thank the city of Ottawa," said Heatley, who'll be in San Jose in time for the opening of Sharks training camp on Sunday. "I had a great four years here, but now the organization and myself can move on. I’m excited to be a Shark.
“I’ll miss the guys in the room. I’ll miss the city, I’ll miss the fans. The fans have been great to me since I’ve been here, and I have nothing but respect for them.”