Dany Heatley never looked further away from a two-time 50-goal scorer than he did last season with the Minnesota Wild, but that hasn’t diminished optimism from his new team. In a recent interview with NHL.com, Anaheim Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau expressed interest in trying the team’s free-agent addition on the top line.
"Every time we've played him, he's been a dangerous player," Boudreau said. "I think we can try him with Getzlaf and Perry. We tried Dustin Penner there … I think this can work better."
"I'm hoping [GM] Bob [Murray] didn't go out and get Dany Heatley just to get someone. I'm sure he's excited and motivated."
Heatley is coming off a disappointing 2013-14 season in which he scored just 12 goals, the lowest total of his career in an 82-game season, and had 28 points for the Wild. His overall usage waned and Heatley even ended up a healthy scratch at various points of the season.
If the Ducks do place Heatley on the first line, he will join two of the league’s most dynamic offensive players in Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. Getzlaf was the Hart Trophy runner-up last year, while Perry is coming off a 43-goal season. The three were teammates on Canada’s gold-medal team at the 2010 Olympics, and have played together at other international events.
In fact, Heatley played on the same line as Getzlaf at the 2008 World Championship and helped Canada win the silver. Heatley led the tournament in scoring with 12 goals and 20 points in nine games, while Getzlaf finished second in the tournament with 14 points including 11 assists.
That was six years ago, though, and back when Heatley was still scoring with regularity at the NHL level. But Heatley comes to the Ducks on the cheap, having signed a one-year, $1 million deal this summer. It’s essentially a no-risk deal, with potential for high reward if Heatley is able to handle first-line usage.
Put the 33-year-old with two of the game’s elite players and who knows what could be possible. As Boudreau noted, Dustin Penner was having a great year playing with Getzlaf and Perry at the start of last season. He had 32 points in 49 games before closing out the year with just three in 18 games with the Washington Capitals after being traded.
Heatley has more innate offensive abilities than Penner, too, even at 33. He has 372 career goals in the NHL with a career 14.5 shooting percentage. Perhaps past his prime, being insulated by Perry and Getzlaf should allow his numbers should trend up. Even just getting his shot totals up could help bring the goals for Heatley.
In his first year with the Wild in 2011-12, Heatley had 238 shots on goal while averaging nearly 21 minutes a night. He had 24 goals and 53 points. Last year, his role diminished significantly and he managed just 110 shots on goal with just under 15 minutes a game.
Also, with so many teams keying on Perry and Getzlaf, Heatley still has the shot and offensive instincts to make teams pay if they forget about him while trying to shut down his more dynamic linemates.
That kind of usage could set up Heatley for a big bounce-back season. It's not completely unreasonable to expect him to have the chance to replicate production similar to that 2011-12 season. If Heatley can do that, the Ducks are going to be especially happy about the return on their cheap experiment.