Heatley signed a 1-year, $1-million contract with the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday; the kind of contract NHL teams hand out to former gunslingers in full decline, and the kind of contract former goal-scoring leaders get before their seemingly inevitable KHL deal.
He spent the last three seasons with the Minnesota Wild after the San Jose Sharks flipped him for Martin Havlat in July 2011. He was in San Jose for two seasons after demanding and approving a trade from the Ottawa Senators in Sept. 2009, ending a bitter standoff.
Heatley, 33, has 372 goals and 419 assists in 863 career games. But his goals (0.16) and points per game (0.37) dipped to career lows this season, as he managed just 28 points in 76 games in 14:49 of ice time on average. He was a healthy scratch for the first time in his career for a critical late-season game for the Wild and then five more, and thus the writing was on the wall.
He wanted to continue his NHL career, and Wild GM Chuck Fletcher felt he could, as he told TwinCities.com:
"I really believe he can help a team, and I believe he will get another opportunity," Fletcher said. "He's got such high character, he's such a tremendous human being, I hope for him he gets an opportunity and it works out great.
"I talked to (Colorado Avalanche coach) Patrick Roy, and he thought one of the key things in that (first-round) series was in Game 3 (with the Wild down 2-0), Heatley went back in the lineup and our bottom six started contributing a lot more. He thought that was a big turning point in that series. He expressly mentioned Dany Heatley."
It’s a no-risk deal for the Ducks, who are looking for veteran help at forward after Teemu Selanne retired and Saku Koivu wasn’t retained. So when it comes into focus how far Heatley’s skills have eroded and how he couldn’t keep up with the Wild’s young, lower line players, at the very least it won’t be a costly mistake.