Sharks accept Heatley as is

DON BRENNAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:07 AM ET

Combined, Milan Michalek and Jonathan Cheechoo will make a little less money than Dany Heatley this season.

They also have the potential to score a few more goals.

In the eyes of an Ottawa-born defenceman who plays for San Jose, however, it's impossible to determine right now the winner in Saturday's blockbuster deal between the Senators and the Sharks.

"We gain a pure goal scorer that maybe hasn't played consistently over the years and Ottawa's getting two guys, certainly one who has scored in the past and is looking to find that again, and a younger player that will make that team a lot faster," Dan Boyle said yesterday from San Jose. "Time will tell who wins the deal, it's always like that, but it certainly looks pretty good for both sides right now."

The suddenly deeper Senators opened training camp yesterday without the two wingers GM Bryan Murray received in return for the only 50-goal scorer in team history, as Cheechoo is expected to arrive in town late tonight and Michalek should get here from his home in the Czech Republic within the next couple of days.

Boyle says folks in these parts may not fully realize what the Senators are getting in Michalek, who will make an average of $4.33 million (all terms US) over the next five seasons.

"Milan is 24 years old, and I think the world of this kid," said Boyle, who's beginning his second season with the Sharks. "I think he's going to be a really good hockey player. He's got his best days ahead of him. I don't know if there are too many faster guys in the league than Milan. He's going to surprise a lot of people. He's going to impress a lot of people."

The sixth overall pick in the 2003 draft has 91 goals and 214 points in his first 317 NHL games. He also has what it takes to become an elite goal scorer, Boyle figures.

"I think so," said one of the NHL's top defenceman. "He's got a great shot. It's just a matter of creating a line around him, or with him, that will allow him to do his thing. I think he's right there. He's knocking at the door. He's so fast and he's so skilled ... again, he's only 24 years old, so he's got some pretty good years ahead of him."

Boyle wouldn't be surprised if Cheechoo, a $3-million player each of the next two seasons, rediscovers his scoring touch with the Senators.

After potting 56 goals as Joe Thornton's winger in 2005-06, Cheechoo's career was derailed by sports hernias. He has just 72 goals in 211 games over three seasons since.

"He's done it," said Boyle. "He's been battling some injuries the last couple of years and that's kind of slowed him down a little bit, but I think if you get him with some guys that are going to set him up, he's got a great shot, he can put the puck in the net. I've been skating with him the last couple of weeks and he looks like he's put himself in pretty good shape this year, so it's just a matter of getting through the injury bug for him."

Boyle was not at all surprised that the trade finally came to fruition Saturday. Spending part of his summer in the nation's capital, he noted the rumours were "swirling" about Heatley going to San Jose.

"We knew we were going to lose some quality players going the other way, so it's kind of a bittersweet feeling," he said. "We know we're getting one of the best goal scorers in the game today. I played with Dany at the world championships, so I know him. We're very excited to have him. He's going to be an offensive threat for us. We play an up-tempo style and I think he's going to enjoy the way we play. It'll be good for him, too."

Expected to play with Thornton, Heatley could even put the Sharks over the top, Boyle admitted.

"This team's been chomping at the bit to get to the Cup," said Boyle. "Again, it's putting pieces of the puzzle together, and this could be the last piece. I hope so. But I'm sure (GM) Doug Wilson won't stop until he feels we have the right guys. We were certainly a good hockey team last year. We finished first overall for a reason. We just need a little more performance out of some players in the playoffs."

Asked if there were any concerns about Heatley's character among the Sharks players, Boyle said no.

"It's a fresh start," he said. "I read the newspaper in Ottawa (but) there might be a story, or some stuff none of us know. He said he's got his reasons and I'll have to take his word on that. Maybe there's something that hasn't been out publicly. Maybe there's more to it than we all know.

"He'll get a clean slate with us. That's what we need. We don't want to bring the baggage onto this team and into this locker room. He gets a clean slate with us. We can't worry about what's happened in the past."


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