DETROIT -- The heat is on the Senators to trade Dany Heatley by Canada Day or it could be costly.
Two league executives confirmed to Sun Media yesterday that if the high-scoring winger isn't dealt by July 1, Senators owner Eugene Melnyk will be on the hook to pay Heatley a whopping $4-million bonus (all terms US), even if he doesn't play for Ottawa next season.
Coupled with the $10 million Heatley received as part of the terms of the six-year, $45-million contract extension he signed in October 2007, Melnyk will have shelled out a total of $14 million over the past year to Heatley, who had only 39 goals and 33 assists for 72 points last season.
Not only is the bonus costly for the Senators, both executives indicated it could "seriously hamper" GM Bryan Murray's ability to move Heatley before the NHL draft June 26-27 at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
Heatley, who is scheduled to make $8 million next season ($4 million in salary and $4 million in bonus), may have really cornered the Senators with his trade demand.
"Melnyk must be just livid," said one league executive. "This guy could cost him $14 million for one season. It's even tougher with this trade request being public. If everything had been kept quiet, they'd probably be okay. Now that it has leaked ... tough deal for Ottawa to make.
"I'm just not sure anybody is going to want to take on that bonus before July 1 and they're going to want the Senators to pay the freight. If they do, it might mean they'll give Ottawa a lot less in a trade. It's just not a good position for Murray to be in right now."
The Maple Leafs faced a similar situation with defenceman Bryan McCabe last summer. While they wanted to get his salary off the books, the club wasn't able to complete the deal with the Panthers until after Sept. 1, when a $2-million bonus was payable.
Sources say the Senators have put Heatley on the market, but have received only mild interest from a couple of teams. There is a sense the Kings, Sharks, Wild, Oilers and Flames are interested, but teams are is keeping a close eye on their cash.
"That bonus is really going to make it tough," added another executive.
The Senators can't afford to give Heatley away.
He's played on the top line, has good chemistry with centre Jason Spezza and is a two-time 50-goal scorer.
Murray will likely be offered big-money players who are underachieving in exchange for Heatley. That won't work for Ottawa.
A deal with the Kings makes the most sense. GM Dean Lombardi wants to spend money, they have the ability to make the deal and Los Angeles might be a nice landing spot for Heatley, who still has the right to refuse a destination because of his no- movement clause.
But one of the executives noted Heatley's reputation has taken a huge hit because of the decision to ask for a trade.
"If he doesn't like the way the coach (Cory Clouston) is using him, then he should have sat down with him after the season and worked it out. It doesn't look good when you say, 'I want out.' Looks selfish," said an executive.