Daily Herald
Are Havlat, Blackhawks destined to part company?
By Tim Sassone | Daily Herald Columnist
Published: 1/31/2008 12:14 AM

DENVER -- Martin Havlat didn't do himself any favors with his Blackhawks bosses when he said Monday he wished coach Denis Savard would have kept last week's rant inside the dressing room.

Havlat's future with the Hawks for the long term already was iffy, to say the least.

It's no secret Havlat and Savard don't have a warm and fuzzy relationship. Savard likes to challenge Havlat, sometimes in a strong way behind closed doors, and the veteran winger often doesn't like it.

Havlat is signed through next season, at which time he could be an unrestricted free agent. The chances aren't good he would even consider re-signing with the Hawks if Savard is still the coach, and there's no reason to believe Savard won't be even in the new world being created by chairman Rocky Wirtz and president John McDonough.

On the reverse side, the Hawks may not choose to re-sign Havlat given his injury history, and certainly not at his current salary of $6 million, or even more.

So how is it all going to end for the Havlat and the Hawks?

General manager Dale Tallon could try to trade Havlat before the Feb. 26 deadline, and there have been rumblings Havlat might be available. The trick would be finding a team willing to pick up the $6 million next season.

Leading up to the deadline, there are some big names expected to be available -- such as free agent Peter Forsberg, Toronto's Mats Sundin and Jason Blake, San Jose's Patrick Marleau, Atlanta's Marian Hossa, Columbus' Sergei Fedorov, Nashville's J.P. Dumont, Los Angeles' Mike Cammalleri and perhaps Florida's Olli Jokinen -- and all the contenders are out there sniffing.

Maybe if a Stanley Cup hopeful such as Detroit, Philadelphia, Vancouver, San Jose or Anaheim loses out on a Sundin, a Forsberg or a Hossa, they might have an interest in Havlat.

The Hawks shouldn't deal Havlat unless they get a good return. Perhaps the best option would be for the Hawks to keep him and let him play out his contract next season. The Hawks could be a highly competitive club next season, and Havlat, providing he can stay healthy, in a contract year could yield big, big numbers.

Both Savard and Havlat are saying all the right things about each other. Havlat said Monday he had no problems with the coach, and Savard returned the favor at Wednesday's morning skate.

"There are no problems as far as I'm concerned," Savard said.

This is just one more big issue on Tallon's plate. If there was a way Tallon could move both Havlat and goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, that would give him almost $13 more million to spend on players for next season.

Havlat would have been better off saying nothing the other day, but he was only giving his opinion to questions asked by the Daily Herald and the Score's Jesse Rogers. He was neither angry nor bitter toward Savard.

The Hawks once believed they needed Havlat to be their star attraction and best offensive player going forward into the future, but with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews exploding onto the scene this season, that thinking apparently has changed.