Neil, teammates relieved that Heatley traded

BRUCE GARRIOCH, Sun Media

, Last Updated: 12:11 AM ET

Chris Neil had his chance to leave Ottawa.

As a free agent, he could have walked away from the Senators and signed with the Maple Leafs or Rangers on July 1. But Neil loves Ottawa and wanted to stay here, unlike Dany Heatley, who was dealt to San Jose yesterday.

While the rugged winger doesn’t have any personal issues with Heatley, Neil says it was probably best for everybody involved because having the two-time 50-goal scorer around was going to present problems.

That’s why Neil was relieved to hear Heatley was gone.

“We want guys who want to be in a Senators uniform. We’ve got a good thing here. I stayed here because it’s a great organization, a nice city and they’ve bent over backwards to accommodate all of us,” said Neil, signed to a four-year, $8-million US deal.

“Other teams do that as well, but they go above and beyond their duties here to make the players comfortable. You can’t say enough about that. They brought (Heatley) in from Atlanta and gave him a fresh start. Dany had some good years here, and if he’s not happy here, then move on, get out of Dodge and don’t look back.”

The circus had already started for the Senators when the media crowd gathered at the rink yesterday morning. Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson and Chris Phillips all appeared at the microphone following their medicals and 99% of the questions were about Heatley.

Met with Phillips, Alfie

Alfredsson confirmed a Sun Media report he had a meeting with Phillips and Heatley Friday. Alfredsson and Phillips tried to talk to Heatley to see if he would change his mind and stay.

“It’s a decision he’s made. We reached out a little bit to see if there was anything we could do as players to make it better for him,” said Phillips. “Maybe there were things that we could do differently to change his mind. This is a great hockey player and a big part of our team.”

The Senators couldn’t hold on to Heatley. They had to get this deal done at anything close to market value.

“He’s a grown-up individual,” Alfredsson said before the deal was announced. “He makes his own decisions. I don’t think it’s for me to say what he should or shouldn’t do. He feels this way and that’s the way it is.”

Had Heatley remained in Ottawa, it’s likely he would have produced solid numbers, with added motivation to be named to Team Canada’s Olympic squad.

“He wants to make Team Canada and I think he would have made a solid effort,” said Neil. “But he would have been doing it for personal reasons, not for the team aspect and for the Ottawa Senators. It would have been for himself, to a certain extent.

“That’s an individual thing. Everybody has to be part of the team. The way our team is structured, we’re a step closer (to playing as a team) and this move will benefit us in the long run. It’s good. We can start the season with a fresh start because we want guys who want to be here.

“The good thing is Dany can move on and so can we. We want guys who want to be here and want to win. If he had come back, we would have made it work, but now we don’t have to worry about that.”

It’s time for everybody to move on. For Heatley and the Senators, it couldn’t have come soon enough.


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