High-Salaried Heinze Not Claimed in Draft
Steve Heinze was not claimed in Friday’s NHL waiver draft, no surprise to the Kings but probably not what they wanted to hear.
Signed to a three-year, $6-million contract as an unrestricted free agent in July 2001, Heinze, 32, scored 15 goals last season, ranking fourth on the team, but none after Jan. 15. He ended the season with a 27-game goal-scoring drought and was used sparingly in the latter part of the regular season and the playoffs.
Though they won’t come out and say it, the Kings would have loved to dump his contract, which guarantees him $2 million this season and $2.25 million in 2003-04, and almost certainly would entertain trade offers for the veteran winger.
Not that they expect any.
After it was released Wednesday that Heinze was among the players exposed to the waiver draft, “We never received any calls about him,” General Manager Dave Taylor said Friday. “So it wasn’t a surprise that he cleared.”
Each team was allowed to protect 18 skaters and two goaltenders.
Only six players were selected, none by the Kings. Age, health and, in some cases, hefty contracts deter teams from picking players.
“You can only protect so many players and I think the feeling was, with his salary, we probably weren’t going to lose him,” Coach Andy Murray said of Heinze, who could be sent to the minors without again having to clear waivers. “I didn’t give it a second thought. He’s competing for a job on our team, working real hard.”
Heinze, in his 12th NHL season, is one of 17 forwards on the roster. The Kings probably will open the season with 14.
Among the forwards protected by the Kings was enforcer Ken Belanger, who played in only 43 games last season, sitting out 20 because of a broken thumb, and has participated only sparingly in training camp because of a back injury.
Niclas Havelid, a defenseman the Mighty Ducks are counting on for some offense, scored the first goal in a 4-0 victory over Phoenix on Friday at the Arrowhead Pond.
Left wing Alexei Smirnov forced a turnover, then got the puck to center Steve Rucchin, who found Havelid charging the net. His chip shot easily beat goalie Brian Boucher for a 1-0 lead in the first period.
“I followed the rush and Rucchin laid it there for me,” Havelid said. “I am trying to skate with the puck a little more this season.”
Rucchin has played in only 54 of 164 games the last two seasons, but demonstrated his value to the Ducks on Friday, finishing with two goals and two assists.
Rucchin scored both goals on power plays, as the Ducks scored three power play goals in the second period.
On the first, Rucchin battled in front of the net and knocked in a rebound. The other came on a pass that went off the skate of Coyote defenseman Paul Mara.
Petr Sykora had the other power-play goal and Adam Oates, acquired to boost the NHL’s worst power play, assisted on all three.
Defenseman Vitaly Vishnevski underwent an MRI on his right knee Thursday, which was negative. Vishnevski is suffering from a strained muscle in his right leg.
He practiced with the team Friday morning but sat out the exhibition against the Coyotes.