New lease on ice

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:42 AM ET

Just two weeks after quietly asking the Atlanta Thrashers for a trade, word around Calgary hockey circles Monday was that Dany Heatley would soon be involved in a monster deal.

The perfect fit, insiders suggested, was the Vancouver Canucks, which could have unloaded some issues of its own by moving Todd Bertuzzi. By swapping two players with immense talent and baggage to match, the reasoning went that both teams would benefit by giving the embattled snipers a fresh start.

Heatley wanted an opportunity to escape the demons lurking from the Sept. 2003 car crash which killed his friend and teammate Dan Snyder. Snyder died days after a high-speed collision in a Ferrari driven by Heatley.

And Ottawa lunged at the opportunity.

It was the perfect trade for two teams in the unique position of having to shed a superstar.

"In his heart, it would have been difficult to play in Atlanta with everything that happened," said Heatley's agent J.P. Barry, explaining why his client elected to pull up stakes in Atlanta.

"If you look around the league at where a player of his level could go, it had to be for an unsigned Marian Hossa, unsigned (Pavel) Datsyuk or a Todd Bertuzzi. Those are natural assumptions people make. It was something (Thrashers GM) Don Waddell explored and felt the move for Hossa in Ottawa was the best fit."

Barry said Heatley's request came with no strings attached, meaning Waddell was free to send the 24-year-old Calgarian wherever he wanted. Thankful for all the Thrashers had done for him while he mended, grieved, rehabilitated and waged a pricey legal battle to avoid jail time, Heatley sat down with Waddell to explain he felt his future goals couldn't be reached in the city he broke into the league with four years ago.

Although shocked by the swap, Hossa should have known he sealed his fate after comments suggesting he deserved Jarome Iginla-like money were followed by the inking of a three-year, $18-million deal yesterday morning. Hours later, he was traded with Greg De Vries, opening up cap room for a club hoping to keep defensive mainstays Zdeno Chara, Wade Redden and Chris Phillips past this year.

Although the trade made perfect sense for both clubs, even Barry admitted the move likely wouldn't have been made under the parameters of the old CBA.

"I think in a way the new dynamic had something to do with it," said Barry, on his way to the Calgary airport to welcome Heatley back from Kelowna before joining him for a red-eye to Ottawa.

"You don't see big stars at this age moving much."

Poised to announce the signing of a three-year, $13.5-million deal this morning in the nation's capital, Heatley makes the Sens younger, bigger and gives the club a sniper gifted enough to fill Hossa's shoes if he can shake the effects of knee and eye injuries the last two years.

Reports out of Team Canada's recent retreat in Kelowna suggest the former Wisconsin stud will be in extremely tough to crack Wayne Gretzky's final Olympic roster of 23, marking another decline in his considerable stock since the accident. All that could change with the increased exposure he'll receive and talent with which he'll play in a hockey market such as Ottawa.

So, after a year and a half of soul searching, Dany Heatley and the Thrashers have made a clean break, opening the door for the most talented hockey player ever to come out of Calgary to get his career and mind back on track.

Will it work?

You bet it will.


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