Sunday, July 3, 2011

Sunday Night Blockbuster: Sharks Deal Dany Heatley To Wild For Martin Havlat

For the second time in less than two weeks the San Jose Sharks and Minnesota Wild have made a blockbuster trade with one another.  This one sent Sharks forward Dany Heatley to the Wild in exchange for forward Martin Havlat.  

Heatley is coming off the worst full season output of his career when he scored 26 goals and had 38 assists in 80 games.  Prior to last season however Heatley had 39 goals or more in five straight seasons, amassing 219 goals in those five years.  Heatley has three years left on his contract that will count $7.5 million per season against the salary cap.  Heatley did have a modified no-trade clause in his contract that allowed him to submit 10 teams he would not allow a trade to, but the Wild were not on the list.

Havlat had 22 goals and 40 assists in 78 games for the Wild last year.  He has been seen as a talented player that has been unable to stay healthy, but has been better with that in the past three seasons.  He has four years left on his six-year, $30 million contract he signed before the 2009-10 season.  Havlat did have to waive his no-movement clause to allow this deal to happen.

One has to wonder if this deal is about removing Heatley from the San Jose locker room, but the acquisition of the talented Havlat should not be underestimated.  Minnesota is taking the gamble that Heatley just had a down season last year and paired with Mikko Koivu he will return to his prior form given reports of an injury hampering him in the second half.  The other part of this trade that must be considered is the $2.5 million the Sharks save in the deal and whether that money will be used towards another move.

Max Talbot Contract With Flyers Violated CBA

While there has been discussion of whether Brad Richards contract with the Rangers was a circumvention of the cap TSN’s Gord Miller is reporting that the Max Talbot’s five-year contract to Max Talbot is the one that was seen as violating the NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement.  The violation makes Talbot an unrestricted free agent again.

Article 50.7 of the CBA says that a player cannot have their salary decrease from one season to the next by more than half the amount of the first two year’s salaries.  Talbot was scheduled to make $2.5 in his first season, and $2.25 in the second season.  Given those two salaries he would only be allowed to have a $1.1875 between any two seasons.  The problem with the contract he signed with the Flyers is that he goes from a salary of $2.25 in the third season to $1 million in season four.  The decrease of $1.25 million violates the allowed $1.1875 million he would be allowed.

The simple solution for this would be to change the his first year salary to $2.25 million and making year adding 250K to any of the last three years and the contract would be within bounds.

It will be interesting to see what punishment the NHL will levy against the Flyers for what obvious was not an intentional violation of the CBA, but rather an embarrassing blunder to the organization. 

With Richards Signed Are Rangers Now Championship Caliber?

The New York Rangers landed the best player available on the free agent market Saturday when Brad Richards agreed to a 9-year, $60 million dollar deal to come to Broadway.  Richards referenced coach John Tortorella and the similarities between what the Rangers are currently do to what went on in Tampa before they won the Stanley Cup.
To be with an Original Six team, which is very special as a hockey player, to play for, and to see an owner who is committed to do whatever it takes to win, and obviously what Glen (Sather) and (John Tortorella) are doing. I see what Torts does, and it works. I know that first-hand. I see how he’s bringing that young team along, and it kind of reminds me of what he did with us (in Tampa). Factor all that in together, at the end of the day, it was the right fit for me.”
Is Richards right in comparing what he is seeing in the building process in New York as compared to what went on in Tampa? Does the addition of Richards make the Rangers contenders for the championship next season?  

While the inclination is to put the answer to those questions on Richards himself and how he meshes with Marian Gaborik, the answer of both of those questions more likely falls onto the shoulders of the Rangers youth that put them in a position to feel they are only one player away from contention. Obviously Richards will have to have another All-Star caliber season where he generates close to 80 points.  In addition to his own offense he will have to get Marian Gaborik back to the form that saw him score 42 goals in his first season with the Blueshirts.  Along with fixing Gaborik, Richards will be expected to help the Rangers mediocre power play become a more consistent threat to score.

Beyond those things however the Rangers key to contention is found in the hands of the young players that helped them make the playoffs last season while Gaborik struggled to be a consistent force and injuries went throughout the lineup.  Are Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan ready to take another step forward in their development offensively in putting up consistent points while staying healthy?  Will Artem Anisimov take another step in his development into a solid second line center?  Can Derek Stepan take his excellent rookie campaign and build more consistency to his play without having the sophomore slump creep in?  Will Ryan McDonagh and Michael Sauer be able to repeat their 2010-11 performances now that the expectations on them are significantly higher?  Will Brian Boyle and Brandon Prust prove that the offensive improvements for each were not just a one year wonder, but signs of what is to come?

The level of attention that Brad Richards will get will help the majority of these players because it should create more consistency in the Rangers lineup from game-to-game and more favorable matchups for the individual players within a game.  The level of skill Richards brings to New York certainly makes them more dangerous to any opponent in a playoff series, but he alone will not be the determinant on whether his assessment that was in being built in New York is like what went on in Tampa before the championship.  All of the players who had breakout or career years for the Rangers last season have to bring those efforts, if not more, if the team wants to truly be contenders for a championship.