Last week, Chris Neil signed a new four-year contract to stay with the Senators. On Monday morning, the gritty winger said that if Dany Heatley doesn’t have the same commitment to Ottawa as he does, then it would be best for the sniper to find a new home.
“I’ve said this from day one: I’m a guy who wants to be here. He doesn’t want to be here, so if he doesn’t want to be here, let him go somewhere else,” said Neil, speaking at Jason Spezza’s annual golf tournament.
Neil said he was surprised to learn of Heatley’s request for a trade because of tension with head coach Cory Clouston. Neil said it was his belief that Heatley adapted to the new coaching system well — and even scored more goals under Clouston than he did under previous head coach Craig Hartsburg. The rest of the players who spoke on Monday, also expressed surprise when they found out about Heatley’s trade request one month ago.
“It surprised everyone,” said center Mike Fisher. “Nobody saw this coming. It’s too bad — it’s disappointing. But definitely, it surprised us all.”
However, Heatley may not find a change of address after all. Bryan Murray has failed to find a suitable trading partner for Heatley and last week, the Ottawa general manager said that returning to the Senators might be Heatley’s only legitimate option right now. The club recently paid a $4 million advance on his salary for next season, after Heatley turned down a potential trade to Edmonton.
His Senators teammates say they would welcome Heatley back into the fold — after he addressed the team and showed that he was committed to being part of the group again.
“Obviously if he came back, something would be said in the room and it would be addressed with and over. We’re men and we can deal with that,” said veteran winger Shean Donovan.
“The hockey world is pretty understanding and forgiving. When you have a guy that can score 50 goals, you welcome him back,” added center Chris Kelly. “He’s been a great teammate in the past and I don’t think things would change moving forward.”
Jason Spezza — Heatley’s linemate and good friend — spoke about the situation last Thursday for the first time. At his golf tournament on Monday, the star center echoed his sentiments from last week.
“If Dany comes back, it would be great for him to have him back. But if he doesn’t, we have to move on as a team. He’s just one piece of the puzzle,” said Spezza.