There are a lot of very exciting and dynamic players playing for the Minnesota Wild these days. Dany Heatley isn’t one of them.
A former two-time 50-goal scorer, his numbers have steadily dropped off since his first season with San Jose (2009-10), a year that saw him notch 39 goals and 43 assists for 82 points and a plus-14 rating in 82 games. In 211 games over the course of four seasons since, Heatley has scored 62 goals and 79 assists for just 141 points. In a Wild sweater, he’s notched 36 goals and 41 assists for 76 points in 131 games. Not exactly what fans and brass were expecting when they received him in the deal that saw Martin Havlat shipped off to the Sharks in return.
This year, “Heater” has been anything but–he’s been ice cold, in fact. In 13 games, he’s scored exactly two assists and an empty-net goal. Oh, yeah–that’s going to give NHL goalies nightmares. Worse yet, the fact that he’s in a contract year, and isn’t responding accordingly, makes him almost entirely unmarketable. This isn’t Thomas Vanek or Matt Moulson we’re talking about here.
That’s a big problem, but not the biggest one facing the Wild brass regarding Heatley. Charlie Coyle, a former 28th overall pick, and one of three 2010 first round selections in Minnesota’s lineup, is set to make his return to the roster possibly as soon as Friday night against the Montreal Canadiens. His insertion into the lineup wouldn’t be so difficult if it wasn’t for rookie Justin Fontaine, a former University of Minnesota-Duluth standout that seems to have made his mark with the Wild as a player that can be put on any line in any situation. There’s no question the Wild will need the services of a jack-of-all-trades like Fontaine.
So Fontaine’s not going anywhere. Neither are top-liners Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu. Nino Niederreiter has proven himself to be a very valuable top-9 forward. Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville have been providing the bulk of team scoring lately on Minnesota’s second line. Kyle Brodziak and Matt Cooke aren’t coming off the third line. Someone’s got to go to make room for Charlie Coyle. With Granlund almost a lock once again for No. 2 center, Coyle is going to have to find a spot either as top line right wing with Parise and Koivu, or possibly as a winger on the other side of Granlund or Brodziak.
With Heatley providing absolutely nothing for Minnesota, it’s only logical he’s the odd man out once Coyle returns. It’s very uncomfortable knowing his $7.5 Million cap hit would be watching from the press box, but Minnesota needs to ice the best team they possibly can night in and night out. Right now, Heatley doesn’t make this team better. And it’s time the Wild cut ties and see what they can come up with on the trade market.
It may just be a bag of pucks.