Last year the San Jose Sharks didn't make their big move until the NHL Trade Deadline when they acquired Ian White from the Carolina Hurricanes. This year Doug Wilson got to work early in the offseason, completing two blockbuster deals with the Minnesota Wild. When the dust had cleared, Devin Setoguchi, Dany Heatley, Charlie Coyle, and a first round draft pick were out while Brent Burns, Martin Havlat, and a second round pick were in.
One week, two moves, and a distinctly different looking team.
For an organization that reached the Western Conference Finals during the last two seasons, a shakeup of this magnitude was either expected or unnecessary depending on who you asked. During the last two offseasons the San Jose Sharks have tinkered with their lineup for the most part, adding bit pieces and role players on the bottom lines. The only major acquisition in those two years (Dany Heatley incidentally) was traded for Jonathan Cheechoo and Milan Michalek, a lopsided deal that saw the San Jose Sharks land one of the NHL's premier snipers in exchange for a falling star and a promising young forward that had never quite put it all together. Other than that it was a change at the bottom of the lineup here, a different set of energy players there, but essentially the same look year in year out.
That second straight Western Conference Finals loss? Yeah, it changed things.
Before we get into commentary of this deal, let's take a look at the relevant even strength and power play statistics of both Heatley and Havlat over the last three seasons. It gives us a nice sample considering both players are the same age (30), are used in similar situations (scoring lines, power play), played relatively similar number of games (73+ per year) and have played for two separate teams during the last four years (SJS, OTT for Heatley, MIN, CHI for Havlat). Since both players don't play a large role on the penalty kill we will ignore those numbers for now:
Dany Heatley Even Strength and Power Play Statistics
|Year||GP||Qualcomp||g/60 ||PTs/60 ||Corsi Rel ||+/- on/60 ||PPG/60 ||PP PTS/60 ||PP GFON/60
Martin Havlat Even Strength and Power Play Statistics
|Year||GP||Qualcomp||G/60 ||PTS/60 ||Corsi Rel ||+/- on/60||PPG/60 ||PP PTS/60 ||PP GFON/60
||+6.6 (2nd)||+1.20 (2nd)
Make the jump for analysis.
From left to right, here is what the numbers are saying:
- Heatley has faced more difficult competition over the course of his career, in large part due to the fact that he is usually placed on a team's top line while Havlat has historically been a second line winger.
- Although Heatley's box car numbers will show that he is a much more prolific goal scorer than Martin Havlat (as Havlat's career high 31 goals in 2003-2004 will attest to), they're remarkably similar in regards to their production at 5v5 when you correct for ice time. The difference here is that Heatley is coming off one of the worst seasons in his career offensively while Havlat had another quietly productive year in Minnesota.
- The same can be said for points-- similar players when adjusted for ice time, with Heatley having one of the worst offensive seasons in his career last year with San Jose.
- In terms of shots given up while on the ice at even strength, Heatley again struggled last season while Havlat did well on a Minnesota team that struggled in this regard. Historically, Havlat is superior in this regard, a testament to his superior two way game. Their goals against when on the ice in comparison to their teammates bear this out to a certain degree. Havlat is better than Heatley in the defensive zone but I think it's fair to say that neither players would be suited for a checking line role. Which isn't what they are asked to play of course, but it bears mentioning.
- The power play is where, hands down, Dany Heatley makes his money, and the numbers speak to that quite loudly. There's no doubt that he is one of the NHL's premier snipers in the League, has a cannon of a slap shot, an accurate wrist shot, and has all the tools in the world that makes him absolutely deadly in this area of the game. This is where he will be missed the most in San Jose.
In terms of this deal for San Jose I think this comment from stats guru Gabe Desjardins sums up the trade quite nicely:
Havlat got soft ice time from the second he got to Min, while McLellan used Heatley to match up against opposing line 1s. The deal makes the Sharks worse, but not $2.5M worse, so they come out ahead.
Using that cap space to round out the roster is going to be essential going forward. As of today the San Jose Sharks have $6.7 MM in cap space that will be used to acquire a mere two players that will play on the third/fourth line provided Joe Pavelski plays in the top six. That is a phenomenal opportunity for the organization to drastically improve the roster from where it is already-- although many of the big names have already been acquired from the free agent list, players such as Antti Miettinen, Jamie Langenbrunner, and John Madden are still available and would provide excellent value to the team.
The biggest key to this deal is whether or not Dany Heatley's injuries last season (groin, broken hand) are recurring or if they were a one time issue that won't be a problem next season. Doug Wilson has historically had an excellent track record of identifying when a player is on the downswing of his career, and that factor could prove instrumental in understanding why the Sharks gave up the more prominent point producer in this trade-- as Gabe said, the Sharks got worse today by a slight margin, but not so much so as to make the cap savings irrelevant.
After the additions of Michal Handzus and Martin Havlat, there is no doubt that San Jose is going to be tougher to play against at even strength next season. With the addition of puck moving defenseman Brent Burns at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the effects of Dany Heatley's loss on the power play should be mitigated to some degree. And while I think Dany Heatley is a better player than Martin Havlat when taken as a complete whole, the idea of becoming a better defensive team up and down the lineup is an appealing one when the addition of Burns has made the Sharks a more formidable force in the offensive zone. That's something that Havlat provides and an area where Heatley lacked.
A trade of this magnitude, coupled with the cap space San Jose has at this point (~$6.7 MM), makes it seem a near certainty that something else is on the horizon for the Sharks. The team has vastly improved its blueline, gotten more defensively responsible up front, and has the room under the upper limit to make another big plunge.
Samuel Jackson said it best, man.