Thursday, September 08, 2005

Havlat almost shipped south too

In Thursday's Ottawa Sun, Bruce Garrioch reported that the Senators came very close to dealing Martin Havlat to the Carolina Hurricanes last month in exchange for Erik Cole.

According to the story, the talks, which were serious, took place before the Sens instead decided to trade Marian Hossa to Atlanta for Dany Heatley. Apparently it was when the team was having trouble negotiating a new contract with "Mach 9". Of course, it's since been resolved, as the team and he agreed on a one year deal worth $2.6 million.

However, the reality is that eventually they will have to deal with Havlat's contract issue, and it could very well end with the speedy forward suffering the same fate as his friend Hossa. Statistically, he's been improving every season, and was a point-a-game player last year with 68 points (31 goals and 37 assists) in as many games. And despite having a reputation of disappearing in the post season, Havlat's numbers during that time of year, though not as impressive as his regular season stats, they're still decent, at 21 points (7 goals and 14 assists) in 41 games, he's not exactly Pierre Turgeon either.

If he has the year everyone, myself included, expects, he'll be in line for a hefty raise from his current salary, and it's unknown whether or not the team will be able to afford it. Havlat can be a UFA for the 2005-06 season, so in all likelihood, they'll work out a one year deal next summer. Having held out in the past, Havlat sorta already has a rep here as someone who puts money first, so pre-Hossa deal when the idea of #18 being moved was not even considered a possibility, many fans I talked with expressed the opinion that Havlat should and would be the member of the core sent out of town.

Of course, with both Zdeno Chara and Wade Redden being UFAs next offseason, as well as Jason Spezza needing a new deal by then (and believe me, he'll want a lot more than his current $1.2 million payday), John Muckler, or whoever the Sens GM is by then, will be extremely busy.

As for the idea of Cole as a Senator and that particular trade, I'm not so sure I would've been a supporter of it. I like Erik Cole as a player, and would take him on the Senators, but player for player, it doesn't excite me.

Cole is three years older than Havlat at 26, and statistically, isn't in his league, having averaged 16 goals and 20 assists in 71 games. The argument could be made that Cole has had less to work with on a team that, talent wise, is inferior to Ottawa, but Havlat, due to the logjam at the right wing position, has mostly been a third liner for his Senators tenure and still managed to put up those numbers.

Cole's pedigree includes the label of a playoff performer, going back to his days on the famous BBC line with Rod Brind'Amour and Bates Battaglia, but even that year, when he first got on everyone's radar, he scored nine points in 23 playoff games, which doesn't even match Havlat's best playoff year of 11 points in 18 games during the 2003 postseason.

As a player, Cole brings a different dimension than Havlat, as he's more physical and rugged, an element fans have lemented for years the Senators lack, but is it worth getting rid of, arguably, the team's most gifted forward?

It's all moot, of course, because the trade never happened, and Cole signed a new one year deal of his own with the 'Canes for $1.2 million, however, getting a peak behind the curtain of the Senators front office makes me worried about what kind of moves we will see in the immediate future if this was as serious as the story implies.

It is also worth noting that in the same story, Garrioch says the Senators tried, unsuccessfully, to move Bryan Smolinski, and in a seperate story says that former Sens defencemen Jason York, an Ottawa area native, won't be coming home after all. Apparently, as previously reported, the two sides did talk, but when Ottawa's contract offer was a two-way deal, the veteran passed, and has since had talks with the Maple Leafs, Canucks, and Panthers.

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