I'm not the first person to publicly state my distaste for all of Dany Heatley's shenanigans this summer. His approach, his bratty stubbornness, his general cluelessness for what the hell was going on, well, it left a bad taste in my mouth, and it probably did so for every hockey fan on the planet.
That being said, this is a slam dunk for a hockey deal. Jonathan Cheechoo was going to be lost on the third line again, and that left Milan Michalek as Joe Thornton's wing. If you could pick between Michalek and Cheechoo as Thornton's finisher, who would you pick? That's a no-brainer.
Still, I don't think Sens fans have to jump off any bridges. In theory, they should have gotten more, but there is potential here. Cheechoo has shown that, given a good setup guy, he can put the puck in the net a lot. He's gotta be healthy, though, and that means no groin or shoulder problems. I'm in the camp that Michalek has maxxed out, and he'll never break the 70-point barrier. Still, that's not a bad thing for a second-line guy, and he's a decent-enough penalty killer.
Between the two of them, they should produce anywhere from 40 to 65 goals. Considering the Senators need for depth, that's not too bad.
I've never been too attached to Michalek but I think all Sharks fans will have some mixed feelings about letting Cheechoo go. Beyond the stats, he was a tireless worker, and even when he wasn't scoring goals, he was always hustling. He had heart and hands, though not really the feet to go with it. He was always nice to fans, even coming off as a little bashful from all of the attention he got (and the dude loved the Oakland A's). It'll be weird not hearing CHEEEEEEEEECH whenever he touches the puck, but I suppose we heard that less and less over the past two years. Best to you, Cheech, and I hope you give Jason Spezza a lot of assists.
Ok, that's enough being nostalgic. This is a results-oriented business, so if Heatley performs well, then we'll all forget about Cheech and Michalek pretty fast. His salary cap hit is huge ($7.5 million), and one wonders how the Sharks plan to actually manage all this considering the big salaries to Joe Thornton and Dan Boyle. This move essentially assumes that Rob Blake retires after this year and that either Evgeni Nabokov or Patrick Marleau are gone after this season. With upcoming deals needed for Joe Pavelski and Devin Setoguchi, something's gotta give.
For now, your forward lines will most likely be:
The ??? can be filled in with veteran agitator Dan Hinote, though I'd prefer someone with a little more offensive upside.
I like having Marleau and Thornton play on separate lines. We know they can work well together, and a super line can be put together for the power play or critical situations (Marleau's also a pretty good point man if necessary). There will still be questions about Heatley's work ethic and willingness to commit. While the Sharks plan an uptempo system, it only works if the forwards support the transitioning defense. Cory Clouston's comments about Heatley needing to move his feet more isn't exactly a ringing endorsement since one of McLellan's first points about the Sharks was the need to keep their feet moving through the neutral zone.
But like I said, this is a results-oriented business. On paper, the Sharks got the most talented player in the deal. The rest will just have to be a long game of wait and see.