Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Spitballing: Havlat - Michalek Trade Seems To Make Sense. But Is It Possible?
Just spitballing here, out of the confines of being accountable for it, as is a blogger’s prerogative (some would say responsibility), but with Don Brennan’s article today about Martin Havlat possibly being of interest to the Ottawa Senators, wouldn’t a deal to reunite Milan Michalek with the Sharks make a lot of sense for both sides?
Think of it this way: both teams, Ottawa and San Jose, would receive players they are already familiar with. Michalek spent parts of 5 seasons in the Bay Area under the eye of GM Doug Wilson, and played some of the best hockey of his career before coming to Ottawa in the Dany Heatley trade. From San Jose’s perspective, bringing back Michalek for a Stanley Cup run holds little risk but possibly a big reward. If it doesn’t work out, they get to walk away from Michalek and his bad knees in July. In sending Havlat to Ottawa, they also escape the final year of Havlat’s contract and a player they obviously don’t consider a core member, as according to Brennan, Havlat was playing on the third line recently and was made a healthy scratch for a game last week.
Michalek has certainly lost a gear and is struggling offensively, but he’s still a responsible, occasionally dynamic player who has no marks against his character, shown by playing through the pain of two wonky knees for many seasons now and never complaining or making excuses. If you’re San Jose, having soured on Havlat as one of your wingers, why not take the chance on a guy like Michalek, who they know a lot about. The risk is very low, and they even save a little bit of money on the deal for this year as far as the cap goes. Michalek’s cap hit is $4.3m compared to Havlat’s $5m for this year. It’s true that Michalek is owed $6m in actual dollars this year, but that won’t be a stumbling block for a wealthy Sharks franchise. They may value the little bit of cap room this deal could provide which could allow them to add another player at the deadline.
From Ottawa’s perspective, it’s a little more risky, but the reward could be bigger. First off, as is often the Senators big concern, they save a little money on Havlat for this year, getting out from under Michalek’s $6m real-money ticket for the slightly more affordable $5m salary of Havlat, whose cap hit and salary are the same (next season Havlat's salary is $6m in cash, $5m in cap hit according to Cap Geek). I don’t see any scenario where Ottawa re-signs Michalek this summer. He’s certainly in the mix to be moved.
Of course, Ottawa would be on the hook for Havlat next year at $5m, but if he works out as a real top-six player, that’s money well spent. They will have to replace Michalek next year anyways and the money they would pay for that replacement will end up being in the same ballpark as Havlat’s $5m.
The fact that Ottawa knows Havlat well, not to mention the speed and skill he can bring might makes this deal something they can digest easier. Brennan points out that Havlat has a no-trade clause but you’d think he’d be happy to get out of San Jose at this point, and Ottawa would be a homecoming tour. Outside of Erik Karlsson, it’s hard to remember a single player who could lift fans out of their seats faster than Havlat in his days with the Senators. He’s banged up after years of injuries but the speed and hands are still there. Maybe a trip back to where it all started would reignite his passion, the only thing that seems to be lacking.
Right now, Ottawa has to do something. Jason Spezza is on an island with Michalek and Cory Conacher, and Conacher seems to be going through the dreaded sophomore slump. They need to find somebody Spezza can play with consistently and produce to his levels. The match may not be perfect, as Havlat likes to have the puck just as much as Spezza does, but this move could open up coach Paul MacLean to switching some pieces around on the Kyle Turris line, possibly even reuniting Bobby Ryan with Spezza, a pairing that was never really given a fair chance to succeed in the early going.
There are plenty who will tell you this Ottawa team’s biggest weakness is in their own end, and I won’t disagree. But that doesn’t mean you quit trying to improve elsewhere if you have the chance.
Of course, this is all just pure speculation, and there’s no guarantee Doug Wilson is dying to reacquire Michalek, but it just seems like a natural fit to an outsider looking in. Both teams could truly benefit from this deal, and the risk for both sides is fairly minimal. Ottawa could have a $5m deal they can’t move, but what if Havlat comes in and starts scoring goals and blowing by defenders on the rush?
That’s a risk/reward scenario Ottawa GM Bryan Murray should consider if he hasn’t already.
And in the meantime, we’ll keep daydreaming while the season begins to slip away for this roller-coaster Senators team that nobody can get a handle on anymore.