After three weeks of trying to trade Dany Heatley, Ottawa Senators general manager Bryan Murray has drawn a blank. No one is interested.
Now the Senators are really squirming, because the days are creeping inexorably closer to July 1, when Heatley's $4-million signing bonus is due.
But Murray repeated Friday night what is becoming a familiar refrain: He's not giving Heatley away for nothing, and if he can't get a deal that will help the Senators, Heatley's going to have to wear an Ottawa jersey next year.
Further, if he has to pay the $4-million bonus on July 1, then any team that wants him is going to face a higher price tag. But, he added: If it gets to that stage, then it's probably not going to happen.
"Yeah, I think there's a better offer needed, certainly," said Murray. "I made a couple of requests. I think I've been quite fair, really. I know I can't get a match for Dany Heatley, I know that for a fact. But I want to get some fair value. If I don't, though, I've made it clear that we'll have to work it out somehow afterwards."
The $4-million bonus has stirred speculation that perhaps the Senators would refuse to pay it, on the grounds Heatley has signalled his intention to quit the team through his trade demand. But owner Eugene Melnyk, who was at the draft but didn't speak to the media, said any speculation along those lines was "categorically wrong." At any rate, doing anything like that would violate the collective bargaining agreement and start a war with the NHLPA. Contracts also can't be rewritten, so even if the sides agreed to restructure the deal to make Heatley's $7.5-million salary cap hit more palatable, it couldn't be done. Murray said he's not surprised the deal isn't done, since trading players is largely about contracts and money in this age of the salary cap. He said he's talked a lot but "never had any inkling that (Friday night) we were going to do the deal."
Murray said he believes "it's possible" to trade Heatley, but it's a matter of getting a fair return for one of the NHL's premier players. He said in contrast to speculation that Melnyk is getting nervous about making a deal, he's actually quite calm. All Melnyk has said, said Murray, is to do the best he can.
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