MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Wild have been searching for the kind of dynamic goal scorer who can put the puck in the net in the blink of an eye, a player who won’t hesitate to let a shot rip from anywhere in the opposing goaltender’s zip code, ever since Marian Gaborik left in 2009.
Here comes Dany Heatley, who never met a shot on goal he didn’t like, determined to show the rest of the league he can still light the lamp with the best of them.
The Wild landed Heatley from San Jose on Sunday night, sending forward Marty Havlat to the Sharks in a straight-up swap of two 30-year-old wingers. Heatley said Monday he was excited to be coming to Minnesota and couldn’t wait to prove that last year’s sub-par season was a fluke.
“As a goal scorer and a player, you want to be that guy,” Heatley said.
Heatley had back-to-back 50-goal seasons in 2005-06 and 2006-07 for the Ottawa Senators, but finished with only 26 goals last season for the Sharks. Heatley played a month and a half with a broken hand and said he had several other nagging injuries that held him back.
“Last year wasn’t the greatest year for me personally, but I’m looking forward to getting back there,” Heatley said.
After the Sharks flamed out in the playoffs yet again, San Jose GM Doug Wilson was looking to switch things up. He found a willing partner in Wild GM Chuck Fletcher, whose team has missed the playoffs in both of his seasons as the team’s top executive.
Fletcher fired coach Todd Richards, replacing him with the Houston Aeros’ Mike Yeo, and then sent All-Star defenseman Brent Burns to the Sharks for a package that included 24-year-old goal scorer Devin Setoguchi on draft night.
Fletcher said the biggest priority heading into the offseason was injecting some juice into a team that finished 30th in the league in shots on goal and had too many players who were better suited to passing and setting up others than finishing the plays themselves.
Havlat seemed to be one of those players. He tied for the team lead last season with 62 points, but only 22 of those came on goals.
“Marty Havlat is one of the better offensive forwards in the league,” Fletcher said. “You look at this trade, it’s two pretty good hockey players trading places. Some hockey players fit into some teams better than others. I think we’ve seen a lot of that over time.”
Fletcher brushed aside character questions about Heatley, who asked to be traded out of previous stops in Atlanta and Ottawa. Fletcher said the team did an extensive background check, as it does with every acquisition.
“Dany’s a quality person and somebody who will fit well in our room,” he said.
He’ll have a familiar face in Setoguchi. The two were close buddies in San Jose, though it would seem likely that Heatley will play with Mikko Koivu and Pierre-Marc Bouchard on the Wild’s top line, while Setoguchi will be the shooter on the second line to balance the offense.
“Our lack of goal scoring is well documented. Our inability to shoot the puck is well documented,” Fletcher said. “We’ve acquired two players who are able to complement the players on our team real well.”
Heatley has three years and $19 million left on his contract, while Havlat has four years and $20 million remaining on the deal he signed with Minnesota two years ago.
“We have a lot of salary cap space,” Fletcher said. “Dany has a higher salary cap number than Marty does, but Marty has another year on his contract. There certainly are no issues from that respect.”
Heatley has a history of struggling in the playoffs, but the Wild would love to see him have a chance to redeem himself in that area. The franchise has missed the postseason for three straight years, making even one of the most supportive fan bases in hockey start to get a little impatient.
“We’re there to get back in the playoffs, no question,” Heatley said of Setoguchi and himself. “Once you’re in the playoffs, it’s a whole new season. They have a good team. They were a good team last year, and I think they’re better team this year.”
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