Senators owner Eugene Melnyk shouldn't count on a Christmas card from Dany Heatley with a $4-million cheque inside.
An NHL source told Sun Media yesterday the Senators' owner faces "long odds" if he thinks he can recoup a July 1 $4-million bonus he paid to the disgruntled winger, who refused to waive his no-movement clause to accept a trade to the Edmonton Oilers.
While officials with the NHL and NHLPA both confirmed a Sun Media report yesterday that the grievance had been filed, Heatley was tight-lipped with a reporter from the San Jose Mercury News when asked about the grievance following a practice in Columbus.
"I'm just focused on hockey," Heatley told the newspaper.
Dealt to the Sharks at the start of training camp for Milan Michalek, Jonathan Cheechoo and an exchange of draft picks, Heatley refused to waive the clause after the Senators had worked out a deal with the Edmonton Oilers for Andrew Cogliano, Dustin Penner and Ladislav Smid.
Melnyk and GM Bryan Murray were referring any questions to the NHL yesterday. Spokesman Frank Brown said in an e-mail the league was dealing with the grievance, but wasn’t going to comment any further. As reported, the paperwork was filed not long after July 1.
League sources say the Senators tried to get an arbitrator to expedite a ruling on this grievance in early August to see if they could eliminate the no-movement clause completely so Murray would be able to deal Heatley where the club wanted without his permission.
The two sides held a conference call, but the arbitrator refused to allow an expedited hearing. That means Melnyk has to get in line with everybody else who has filed a grievance and the timing of a hearing is going to be difficult for the league to schedule because Heatley has to be present.
According to an NHL source, that decision by the arbitrator in the summer could be a blow to Melnyk’s case. The Senators insist they had been given permission to speak with 8-10 teams — including the Oilers — when Murray made the trade before the bonus was payable.
“This could end up being a waste of time for Melnyk,” said a league executive. “He’s facing long odds if he thinks he’s going to win this one. He can fight all he wants, but it’s going to be tough. I just don’t see an arbitrator giving Melnyk his money back.
“It’s very difficult to win in decisions like this. He’s up for a long legal fight because there’s a boatload of arbitration cases, they’re difficult to schedule and, usually, the player wins. Melnyk probably has a beef, but it’s hard for him to prove. The guy has the no-move clause.”
So if Melnyk wins the case? That could mean the Sharks would be on the hook for the cash after winding up with the two-time 50-goal scorer.
“This is a case that is totally unprecedented,” said another league source. “That’s why I don’t think Melnyk is going to have any success with it.”
Heatley’s agent J.P. Barry refused comment yesterday.