Dithering a show-stopper

CHRIS STEVENSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:32 AM ET

Dany Heatley did a pretty good job knocking Michael Jackson off the front pages the last few days.

We went from the King of Pop to the King of Stop.

Michael Jackson, did, at least, drop one glove.

Heatley's dithering over whether to accept a trade from the Senators to the Edmonton Oilers certainly curtailed for a while the involvement of those two teams in a lot of the fun. Throw in the New York Rangers, rumoured to be interested in acquiring Heatley at least until they signed Marion Gaborik, and it's hard to know how many teams and players were caught up in the Heatley bottleneck.

The Senators-Oilers drama stretched out into its 24th hour last evening. There was at least the feeling yesterday there would be a resolution after the status of the $4-million US lump sum payment of half of Heatley's salary this season was resolved. The word was absolutely, positively, that midnight last night was the deadline for it to be paid.

Who would be cutting the cheque was just one of the smaller questions that hung over the day.

Until they knew if they had acquired forwards Dustin Penner and Andrew Cogliano and defenceman Ladislav Smid in exchange for Heatley, the Senators didn't have a grip on their exact needs, how much money they would have to spend or upon whom to spend it.

SHUNNED EDMONTON

The Oilers were likely in the same situation, as far as their skaters were concerned, but did jump into the pool with the signing of G Nikolai Khabibulin. The 36-year-old, who played last year with the Chicago Blackhawks, gives the Oilers a No. 1 goaltender after Dwayne Roloson left for the New York Islanders.

When Heatley shrugged off the first opportunity to go to the Oilers Tuesday night, he added to the growing list of top-end players to treat Edmonton as the new Winnipeg. Chris Pronger, Jaromir Jagr, Michael Nylander and Marian Hossa, to name a few, have all either asked to leave or refused to go to Edmonton, a great hockey city with a great tradition but with apparently little appeal to the league's glitterati.

Khabibulin, never shy about chasing a dollar, took a four-year deal. His signing salvaged what was looking like a black day in July for the Oilers. At the onset of evening, there was still the prospect of Heatley finding out there was no better deal to be had and accepting the deal to Edmonton, leaving the Oilers looking like the last girl left when they turned the lights on.

HOSSA AND HEATLEY

Heatley started out as the main story of the day as the gates prepared to open at noon and remained a back story throughout the day.

It was interesting to see the juxtapostion of Hossa and Heatley, two guys who will always be linked after they were traded for each other in 2005, Hossa embroiled in a tough negotiation with the Senators and Heatley asking for a trade from the Atlanta Thrashers after the car crash which killed Thrashers teammate Dan Snyder.

Hossa was the jewel of yesterday's free-agent class and signed with the Chicago Blackhawks (in another coincidence, the 'Hawks chose him over ex-Senators teammate Martin Havlat, who signed with Minnesota).

Hossa, the man in demand. His reputation in the league was elevated last year at this time after rejecting that big deal with the Oilers, its riches and security, and another from the Pittsburgh Penguins, to take a one-year deal with the Detroit Red Wings because he thought that was his best chance to win a Stanley Cup.

He became the final's tragic figure, the team he left for the Wings raising the Cup.

Then there was Heatley being vilified in two cities.

Two players, two decisions that are defining their reputations.

They both occupied central roles again yesterday, for vastly different reasons.


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