Heatley-Wild trade chatter; Coaching search continues with Laviolette sitdown

Posted on June 10th, 2009 – 9:52 AM
By Michael Russo

That Heatley part got your attention, eh? :)

First things first, but there’ll be a Game 7 for the right to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup on Friday in Detroit. Great game last night, and what an ending. Detroit’s net is empty for about 1:20, and Detroit wins three draws. Is there anybody in the league who protects the puck better than Pavel Datsyuk, by the way?

Apparently the Wings don’t care that the Wild’s currently conducting a coaching search. Otherwise, they would have gotten it done last night, right?

It appears all but certain that Chuck Fletcher at least wants to interview Wings assistant Paul MacLean, and maybe even Brad McCrimmon, so by the series continuing, it delays the interview(s) to this weekend at the earliest.

Fletcher attended last night’s game and is scheduled back in his St. Paul office today. In fact, he’s been hopping around the last couple days working on the coaching search. Peter Laviolette’s been MIA since originally being quoted in the Strib, so that often means you can bet your last dollar they’ve met within the last couple days.

And that is what I’ve been told by myriad sources. As I’ve written on here in the past, of all the former NHL coaches, Laviolette makes the most sense. Well respected, won a Cup, coaches a very aggressive system in which it’s all about attacking with the puck. 

One name I’ve heard in the last couple days is former Bruins coach Mike Sullivan, who’s been given permission by Lightning boss Brian Lawton to seek a head coaching job. Not sure completely if he’s talked to Fletcher, however, although he was on the original Fletcher “list.”

Technically, Sullivan’s still a Lightning assistant. He’s known as a details guy and was loved by John Tortorella when he coached there.

But from everything I hear, this is between Todd Richards, Peter Laviolette and eventually Paul MacLean. I don’t know exactly where Craig MacTavish sits right now.

As for Heatley, there seems to be a perception out there that if the Wild loses Marian Gaborik, it can just go out and acquire $7.5 million players.

It’s a lot more complex than that, especially since it’s unknown where the salary cap will dip to in the next two or three years and because the team spent $6 million a year on Niklas Backstrom. That $4.08 million salary cap hit for Pierre-Marc Bouchard the next four years tightens things up as well.

Yes, the Wild could take Heatley’s $7.5 million cap hit the next five years, but it would affect any flexibility or ability to plug other holes, like center and defenseman though the end of his contract. And remember, Mikko Koivu’s a UFA after two seasons and Brent Burns after three seasons. It’s imperative in today’s day and age to think that far ahead.

With that said, however, I am sure Chuck Fletcher will investigate what Ottawa GM Bryan Murray would want in a package if — and I repeat, if — he moves Heatley, who’s top-three in goals per game the last several years along with Kovalchuk and Ovechkin.

He’s a true superstar, and if you want to make a splash as a first-year GM, well, Heatley would be more like a tidal wave.  

And remember, Fletcher and Murray are very close. Fletcher was his assistant GM for seven of Fletcher’s nine years in Florida, and then Murray brought Fletcher to Anaheim after Rick Dudley was hired in Florida. (Incidentally, I hear Dudley will soon be leaving Chicago as assistant GM for another top job in the league).

I’ve talked to a number of people the last day on this Heatley situation, and it’s certainly not guaranteed that Murray’s just going to move Heatley because he is asking off the second team in his career (Atlanta being the first). Plus, Heatley’s got to approve any trade, so it’s not guaranteed he’d come to Minny even if Fletcher worked out a deal.

Also, it’s not guaranteed the Wild has the pieces to get Heatley. Murray would want a ton for Heatley, and lets be honest, the Wild’s not moving Koivu or Burns. So right there, that could take them out of it. Any deal would probably have to include Tyler Cuma and a first, plus a top position player.

Murray has long been interested in Kim Johnsson, but Johnsson’s in the last year of his deal at a $4.85 million cap hit, so that probably won’t work. Neither would goalie Josh Harding anymore either since Murray dealt Antoine Vermette to Columbus for Pascal Leclaire at the trade deadline.

Either way, you can bet Fletcher will make the call and see if he can dive into the trade talks. But again, this would be a complex deal because you have to find the right fits for a trade and then decide if it’s worth potentially creating other holes and/or putting yourself in a position where you can’t fill holes that are already there. 

As for Gaborik, I’m told Fletcher and agent Ron Salcer won’t talk again until after a coach is hired. Fletcher feels it important that Gaborik knows who’s coaching the team and what direction they’ll be going in. And regardless, Salcer’s currently vacationing with his family in Israel, so he won’t be back until later next week anyway. 

OK, that’s it from here. I’ll be on KFAN from 11-11:30 today.

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