Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Free Agency 2011: Trades and Signings

Free agency is a real shit show.  Everyday there's a new signing or trade, so there is no good day to really start analyzing what is transpiring.  So what I'll do is everyone once in awhile update you on the happenings around the league.  I thought today would be as good a day as any, seeing as though a rather colossal trade went down last night: Dany Heatley of the Sharks for Martin Havlat of Wild.

Instant analysis: Both guys have their issues, which is no surprise when big name players are traded.  Heatley is allergic to big games, aka The Playoffs.  Why does a two-time 50 goal scorer always seem to disappear in the playoffs? After watching Heatley pot a measly 5 goals in 32 games, Sharks GM Doug Murray was clearly tired of trying to figure it out.

Havlat's problems are different. Playoff scoring? Well for starters, you have to participate in the playoffs to have a problem like that.  Havlat has only made it to the big dance once in the last 5 years.  The last time he did play though, in 08-09 with the Blackhawks, he performed well enough, recording 15 points in 16 games.  Where Havlat errs is in his effort level from game to game. Known league wide for being a dominant one-on-one player, you'd think his stats would reflect his talent-level, but it rarely does.  It's not that he's not productive: his .84 ppg is nothing to scoff at.  He's just always a player that has left you wanting more, which is probably why he'll be on a 3rd team in 6 years.

So who wins the trade? I'd say both teams win.  Heatley has shown me that he plays well when there's little to no pressure,  and Minnesota, though packed each and every night, is far less a pressure cooker than San Jose, where finishing amongst the leaders in the regular season is clearly not good enough for their fans.  Minnesota is dying to just play a playoff series, and getting a proven top end scorer is a smart move by the Wild.

As far as San Jose is concerned, I think getting rid of Heatley and his big contract is a good start, as they will save 2.5M a year with this deal.  With the addition of Havlat, they got an asset they needed, speed, and lost an asset they maybe had enough of, goal scoring.  Havlat is a better match with speedier centers like Couture or Pavelski, who Heatley had a hard time clicking with.  In a sense, Heatley's fate was sealed when he failed to fit with Thornton, the ideal, east/west and cerebral center for Heatley.  

For GM Doug Wilson, this trade is probably secondary to the one he made a week earlier with the same Wild.  Wilson sent Devin Setoguchi, 2010 1st rounder Charlie Coyle and a 2011 1st rounder for defenseman Brent Burns.  Though it may appear to be a large bounty to pay, Burns was truly the missing piece in San Jose's playoff run last year, a big bruising d-man who's also an offensive threat.

This is the kind of trade I've been expecting for a long time from the Sharks, a team that has always had a Stanley Cup contending offense, but never the proper balance defensively.  Brent Burns is basically a younger version of Rob Blake, and there's no reason not to believe that Burns' presence will pay dividends in the playoffs this coming year.

Will getting Burns and Havlat be enough to put them over the top?  Hard to say.  I'm still not crazy about Niemi in nets, despite his inspired play last year, and Joe Thornton still doesn't scream "leader" to me.  Definitely like the moves the Sharks made, but not calling them the champs just yet.

Tomorrow i'll talk about another big trade, this time between the Avs and Caps.  Don't worry, this time i'll have a clear winner and loser for y'all...

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