Ducks fans fondly remember Heatley as the guy who ran rampant over the Eastern Conference alongside Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza before being completely and utterly shut down by Samuel Pahlsson, Rob Niedermayer, Travis Moen, Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger, Jean-Sebastien Giguere, et al. in the 2007 Stanley Cup Final. Two years later he signed a six year, $45 million contract with Ottawa including a no trade clause and subsequently forced his way out the following year, squeezing an extra $4 million out of the Senators by denying a trade to Edmonton before eventually approving a trade to San Jose.
Over the course of that contract (which expired on July 1) his point production steadily declined from 0.88 points per game to 0.37 last season in Minnesota. The only uptick along that line was his first year in San Jose, where he spent time on a line with Joe Thornton. In the past four years his points per game have dropped by an average of 0.16 each year. If that trend continues this season he would find himself in the 0.20 points per game range. For context, last year Francois Beauchemin and Ben Lovejoy put up 0.24 and 0.23, respectively while playing a similar number of games (70 and 78 to Heatley's 76).
In speaking to the Ducks' official website, Heatley was honest about his perceived shortcomings (lack of speed) and said "I feel like I have a lot to prove and a lot to give. I want to prove a lot of people wrong." Which is nice to hear. He also said that it is his job to put himself in a position to play with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.
Considering the Ducks were a significantly better offensive team as a whole than Minnesota last year - leading the league with 3.21 goals/game as opposed to Minnesota's 2.43, good for 24th (regardless of shooting percentage, that's a big gap) - Heatley should have a chance to at least slow the decline in his point production. Also with the way that Bruce Boudreau tends to shuffle the lines, I would expect him to see at least some time with Perry and Getzlaf, which can only benefit him.
However, a quick look at the usage stats/charts on extraskater.com shows that Heatley isn't really in the same league with the twins. His usage was more along the lines of Kyle Palmieri or Matt Beleskey, both of whom saw time on the first line, but obviously were unable to cement their position there and could both be considered fourth liners (see Kid ish's post this afternoon for more on Palms). Palmieri and Beleskey were also better possession players and point producers than Heatley was last year.
So there's a little taste of what to expect from Heatley this year, but what does it mean contractually? Well, at $1 million, Heatley will only be making more money than Emerson Etem, Tim Jackman, Patrick Maroon and Rickard Rakell (assuming Jakob Silfverberg and Devante Smith-Pelly sign for raises as RFAs) among forwards. So, there is little risk in terms of sheer dollars, the real issue is the number of contracts that the Ducks are carrying.
Including DSP, Silfverberg (yet to be signed) Etem and Rakell, the Ducks have 14 forward contracts on the books. That's two healthy scratches per game with Etem and Rakell on two way contracts. Being a winger, Heatley shouldn't affect Rakell's position on the team, but certainly blocks Etem as he will be the easiest player to send down to Norfolk on his entry level deal, not requiring waivers. Again, this is assuming DSP and Silfverberg are given the one-way contracts that they are most likely due.
Heatley's contract also blocks the potential ascension of Nic Kerdiles who, if prospect camp last week was any indication, will be pushing for a spot with the big club as well. That is less of a concern however, in that Kerdiles only brings six games worth of pro experience to camp with him and was already bound to spend some time in Norfolk this season.
Going back to Heatley's comments yesterday, one of the reasons that he said things didn't work out for him in Minnesota was their young players coming up through the roster. That's not changing. But I guess such is life in professional sports. When you are an aging veteran with steadily declining numbers, you have to compete with young prospects on the rise who have just as much, if not more to prove than you do.