ATLANTA (AP) – The Atlanta Thrashers traded former NHL rookie of the year Dany Heatley to the Ottawa Senators for Marian Hossa on Tuesday, a blockbuster deal requested by Heatley less than two years after he was blamed for a wreck that killed a teammate.

The teams swapped high-scoring right wingers on the same day Hossa agreed to a three-year, $18 million contract with the Senators, avoiding salary arbitration.

The 24-year-old Heatley, a restricted free agent, combined with Ilya Kovalchuk to give the Thrashers two of the NHL’s most prized young players. Hossa led the Senators with 36 goals and 46 assists in 2003-04, the last season before the lockout.

The Thrashers also received defenseman Greg de Vries.

Heatley’s best season was 2002-03, when he had 41 goals and 48 assists. He has been plagued by misfortune since then, most tragically when he was driving a car involved in a high-speed crash that killed teammate Dan Snyder.

Heatley went to the Thrashers a couple of weeks ago and requested the trade.

“Over the course of time, we experienced some unfortunate incidents and encountered some challenging issues,” his agent, Stacey McAlpine, said in a telephone interview from Calgary. “I think it was a combination of several things that slowly, over time, led us to the decision that it might be in everybody’s best interests to work together to try to find a new opportunity, a new home, a new place to play.”

McAlpine said contract negotiations contributed to the decision but were not a major factor.

“Certainly, some of those issues were more important than others,” he said. “Ultimately, this decision for us wasn’t so much of a business decision. It was more of a life decision.”

Heatley sustained a serious knee injury in the wreck that caused him to miss 51 games the following season. He returned to tally 13 goals and 12 assists in 31 games, but was injured again while playing in Switzerland during the lockout. A puck struck him in the left eye, breaking the orbital bone and requiring facial surgery.

McAlpine said Heatley has fully recovered from his injuries. He played for Canada in the last two world championships, winning MVP honors in 2004. He also played for his homeland at last year’s World Cup of Hockey.

Heatley has mixed emotions about leaving Atlanta, McAlpine said, but is thrilled to be returning to his native country.

“He’s got his fair share of experience playing for Team Canada and wearing the Team Canada colors,” McAlpine said. “He’s proud to be a Canadian and is pretty excited about coming back to Canada.”

Heatley was the MVP of the 2003 NHL All-Star game and rookie of the year in 2001-02. He has 80 goals and 101 assists in 190 career games with the Thrashers.

The 26-year-old Hossa, a native of Slovakia, is one of the league’s most prolific scorers. He’s averaged nearly 35 goals a year over the last five seasons, including a career-high 45 in 2002-03.

Hossa’s new contract will pay him $5 million this season, $6 million in 2006-07 and $7 million the following year.

De Vries gives the Thrashers another newcomer in an overhauled defense. In 2003-04, he had three goals and 13 assists in 66 games.

Heatley’s promising career was sidetracked in September 2003. He lost control of his Ferrari on a narrow, twisting road in Atlanta, the vehicle colliding violently with a brick pillar and iron fence.

Snyder, a passenger in the car, died after several days in a coma.

Heatley was sentenced to three years probation after pleading guilty to second-degree vehicular homicide, driving too fast for conditions, failure to maintain a lane and speeding. Heatley also was ordered to give 150 public speeches about the dangers of speeding, and his driving privileges were restricted.

The only felony charge – first-degree vehicular homicide – was dropped as part of a plea deal that kept Heatley from serving any jail time.

AP-ES-08-23-05 1902EDT


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