Dany Heatley said his "diminished role" with the Ottawa Senators is the biggest reason he asked to be traded.
Speculation has been flying since Heatley put in a trade request more than two months ago, and the Ottawa sniper finally ended his silence during a conference call Friday afternoon, the first time he's spoken publicly about his fractured relationship with the NHL club.
While Heatley, 28, confirmed reports he is experiencing tension with Senators coach Cory Clouston, he said it's not the main reason he still wants out of Ottawa.
"When I signed in Ottawa a few years ago I was told that I was going to be an integral part of the team. I think over the last two years, and more recently over the last year, I feel that my role has diminished. This past season, it diminished a lot more," Heatley said from Kelowna, B.C., where he resides in the off-season.
Why did Heatley say no to Edmonton?
During Friday's conference call, Dany Heatley revealed why he exercised his no-trade clause in July to nix a deal that would have sent him to the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for Andrew Cogliano, Dustin Penner and Ladislav Smid.
Heatley stated he wants to have a choice of teams to be traded to, and with only one option in Edmonton, he wasn't ready to make a decision.
"It had nothing to do with Edmonton, personally. When we asked for the trade and starting talking to Ottawa about it, we wanted to go about together and we wanted some options," Heatley explained.
"To this date, there's only been one option.
"I'd like the opportunity to go somewhere where I can play to the best of my capabilities and be the player I can be."
Heatley talked to Clouston at the end of last season about what he felt was the limiting of his ice time, and his demotion from the first to the second power-play unit.
"I feel that I'm a player that can be used in a lot of different situations. I'm an offensive guy, but I think [I'm strong] in all aspects of the game, and I don't feel like I've been given that role on the team," Heatley said.
A two-time 50-goal scorer with the Senators, Heatley was invited, with 45 other hopefuls, to the Canadian Olympic team orientation camp, which starts Monday in Calgary. Heatley decided to speak Friday in advance of his arrival in Calgary so that his issue with the Senators would not become a distraction to the other players in camp.
"We're happy he did that so now when he comes to this camp, we'll be able to move on," Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson said Friday in Calgary. "I think it shows respect for Hockey Canada."
General manager Bryan Murray tried to trade Heatley to the Oilers last month, but the forward blocked the deal through his no-trade clause.
Heatley — who signed a six-year, $45-million US contract with Ottawa in 2007 — said he would still return to training camp next month even if the Senators couldn't trade him.
"I have a contract and I'm going to honour that contract," he said. "At the same time, I think we know there are other teams out there who are interested and hopefully something can get done."
Heatley said he made his trade request to the Senators privately, and that he was disappointed the issue became public.
"I regret the way it has been this summer, and it hasn't been fair — especially to Edmonton and Ottawa. But that's the way it went," said Heatley.
Loves Ottawa fans
Heatley also explained that he declined to publicly comment on his trade request until now because it would "create more of a circus."
"I love the fans in Ottawa. I think it's a great city, and that's why I signed long-term there," said Heatley. "I didn't speak until now because there's a process that has to take place, and in all fairness to Ottawa and the other teams involved, I didn't feel it was necessary or purposeful to come out publicly and create more of a circus than it already was.
"It's unfortunate that it became public, because that is not what I wanted."
"It's been a frustrating time for us," Senators general manager Bryan Murray said of the Heatley situation during a conference call of his own
Murray said he hopes to trade Heatley.
"I heard him say he wants to be traded and we'll continue to work with him in that area," said Murray.
This isn't the first time Heatley has asked to be traded — he made a similar request of the Atlanta Thrashers back in 2005.
Still, Heatley doesn't think he's earned a reputation as a disgruntled player.
"I've been on a lot of teams with Team Canada and played with a lot of different players and a lot of different coaches," he said. "Everyone I've played with or played for knows I'm a team guy and knows I'm a good teammate.
"I don't worry about a question of my character. The two trades have been two totally different circumstances. Coming out of Atlanta was a life decision and an off-ice thing. This trade is purely hockey."
Heatley asked to be traded after pleading guilty to four of six charges of vehicular homicide and was sentenced to three years probation. He was the driver of a vehicle that crashed Sept. 29, 2003, killing teammate Dan Snyder.
Heatley scored 39 goals in 82 games last season, and his 72 points marked his lowest total in four campaigns with Ottawa.