In Summer 2009, Dany Heatley had the power to determine his fate. He demanded a trade from the Ottawa Senators, and then used his no-trade clause to prevent a deal that would have sent him to the Edmonton Oilers. On Sept. 12, Heatley finally agreed to a trade that shipped him to the San Jose Sharks, who were willing to take on the final five years of the six-year, $45 million contract he signed in 2007.
In Summer 2011, the same contract that Heatley used to force a trade from Ottawa gave San Jose GM Doug Wilson an opportunity to trade him from the Sharks.
Wilson said on Sunday night that Heatley had a "window" in his no-trade clause open recently that turned it into a limited no-trade clause, with Heatley submitting a list of 10 teams to which he could not be traded.
The Minnesota Wild were not one of those teams.
On Sunday, Wilson made Dany Heatley, 30, a member of the Minnesota Wild, with fellow All-Star winger Martin Havlat, 30, heading to San Jose in a blockbuster trade.
The Wild signed Havlat to a six-year, $30-million deal in 2009, following the Chicago Blackhawks' decision not bring him back, opting instead for free-agent Marian Hossa. Havlat's contract included a no-trade clause as well, which he waived for the Sharks.
Havlat said the Wild approached him with this deal on Sunday, and didn't have any idea that Minnesota was trying to trade him.
"It was surprising I was presented this deal. I decided to waive the no-move clause for the Sharks. It's a great team with great players, with a chance to win a lot of hockey games," said Havlat on Sunday.
A source told Puck Daddy on Sunday that this was the first time the Wild had asked Havlat to waive his no-trade clause.
So that's how the trade came together. But from an on-ice perspective, why would the Sharks trade Dany Heatley for Martin Havlat?
Heatley's first year with the Sharks was spectacular: 39 goals, 43 assists, his 82 points putting him third on the team behind Joe Thornton (89) and Patrick Marleau (83).
Last season saw those numbers tumble: 26 goals, 38 assists for 62 points in 80 games, the lowest total Heatley had in any season with at least 70 games played.
Part of that statistic decline was due to Heatley playing with a broken hand, Wilson confirmed on Sunday. He also suffered a high-ankle sprain in the Sharks' Western Conference final loss to the Vancouver Canucks.
"He's a good man. He worked his butt off. This is a guy who played with a broken hand for a month and a half and didn't say a word about it," Wilson said.
Yet there was a feeling that Heatley wasn't performing when it counted most: In the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
He had 13 points in 14 games in 2010, but scored only two goals and didn't score a goal in the Sharks' final five playoff games. It was revealed after the playoffs he was playing with a "very bad groin injury."
Last postseason, Heatley had just nine points in 18 games, including three goals. Against the Canucks, he had a single assist in the five-game defeat. Again, injuries were blamed.
So there was much understandable reading between the lines on Doug Wilson's comments Sunday night, in which he put over Havlat's playoff success and hunger for postseason play.
"He's played extensively in the playoffs," said Wilson. "That's why he plays the game. He's a hockey player that wants to play in big situations, and that's a piece that we think is an important part of his makeup."
The Sharks' annual playoff appearances were a factor for Havlat waiving his no-trade clause as well.
"I know they've been in the playoffs many years in the past. They're a great team and they have a great chance every year to battle for the Stanley Cup. That's very important to me, to battle for the Cup. Or just to get into the playoffs," he said.
Havlat made the playoffs in his first five NHL seasons with the Ottawa Senators, amassing 34 points in 51 games. For the Blackhawks in 2009, he had 15 points in 16 games, including seven in their six-game defeat of the Canucks.
"If your season ends on April 10, it's an empty feeling. When the real season starts, you're already sitting at home," said Havlat.
So it was an easy call for him to waive his NTC, seeing as how the Wild haven't made the playoffs during his tenure there. (There had also been some gripes about ice time and his role with the Wild under former coach Todd Richards.)
Plus, there was some familiarity with the Sharks. His Wild teammate Brent Burns was traded to the Sharks at the NHL draft. He played with Antti Niemi and Michal Handzus briefly in Chicago, and said he got to know Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau a bit at the NHL All-Star Game.
A couple of other factors in the trade:
Wilson's a Havlat fan. The Sharks GM said he's been eyeing Havlat since his days with the Senators and Blackhawks. "When you're looking at high-end, speed, breakaway player that likes to play in big moments, Marty's at the top of the list," he said.
Speed. Wilson said his forwards group lost some speed when he traded Devin Setoguchi as part of a package for Burns. Heatley's skating ability was widely criticized in the playoffs; Havlat is a faster offensive player and a more versatile one within the lineup.
Money. Havlat's cap hit is $5 million, and he's signed through 2015. Heatley's cap hit is $7.5 million, and he's signed through 2014. An extra year of service and an annual cap savings that's as much as one Douglas Murray? It was a factor for Wilson.
Make no mistake: Dany Heatley is still an elite goal-scorer in this league, a caliber of sniper the likes the Wild haven't seen since Marian Gaborik snapped the twine between injuries.
But much like with Devin Setoguchi, Wilson saw the chance to upgrade his roster with something it needed — puck-moving defenseman for Burns, speed and clutch scoring for Havlat — and had to sacrifice something to get it.
Heatley's contract, the reason he was in San Jose in the first place, offered Wilson a chance to make that upgrade. Whether it actually is one, we'll learn next spring.