by PuckStopsHere on 02/09/12 at 02:41 PM ET
The NHL trade deadline is February 27th. It is two and a half weeks away. One of the big name players who is likely to be moved is Ales Hemsky of the Edmonton Oilers. The Edmonton media is writing pieces to prepare their fans for this inevitability. This is likely not such a smart move. Tyler Dellow writes two intelligent pieces on this situation here and here.
Hemsky has been a good player for the Oilers. In his best years he was ranked in the lower part of a top 50 player rankings list. In a 30 team NHL that should make him the second best player on his team, however on a weak Oiler team he was their top player. He has in his third straight lacklustre season below that level. This has been largely brought on by injury issues. Hemsky has never had as low a value in his NHL career as he does now.
Due to his low value, the Oilers likely could re-sign him (he is an unrestricted free agent this summer) to a contract that would give them value. The Oilers certainly have salary cap space for such a signing. That isn’t the direction being selected. Hemsky will almost certainly be traded to a contender for a limited return (maybe a wannabe prospect and a draft pick outside the first round) before the trade deadline passes.
I would argue this is a bad move for the Oilers. They have a better chance of getting a contributor to the team’s core by keeping Hemsky than from the trade return. It isn’t easy to get a player of Hemsky’s ability. Sure he is imperfect. He has injury issues. He is also a potential 60 or 70 point scorer next year.
The Oiler media seems to look at things as though Hemsky tried leading the Oilers and they went nowhere. Now they have a young core that will likely make the Oilers a strong team in the future. Hemsky is not part of that young core, but at age 28 he is young enough that he likely has many years left. When the Oilers core develops into a contender (if it does), they will likely be looking for another scoring forward to trade for to fill out there second line. They will be looking for a player just like Ales Hemsky. Ales Hemsky is a player like Ales Hemsky. That problem could be solved before it develops.
It is unfair to blame Hemsky for the failure of past Oiler teams. As a player who is in the outskirts of a top 50 list (in his best days), Hemsky should have been the second best player on an average team. He was the best player on a poor team. That is exactly what you would expect for a player of his ability. It reflects badly on the way the Oilers are being run that they had so little depth.
It also reflects badly on Oiler management that they are not looking forward a year or two in order to see how Ales Hemsky is exactly the kind of player the Oilers will need. Of course if Hemsky were to net a huge return in a trade it would be sensible to move him, but he won’t likely provide a huge return. It looks like Edmonton will move Hemsky for whatever return they can get regardless of it that return makes sense. They will move Hemsky because they are a rebuilding team and that is what rebuilding teams are supposed to do. What they do not see is that their rebuild is far further along than other teams that are outside the playoffs. They have found Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall. Other non-playoff teams do not have a group of young players with that talent. As a result a younger free agent to be in Hemsky will likely be quite valuable when this young core matures. The Oilers can sign Hemsky for a lower amount of money than they can anyone else of his talent level because of injury risks. This makes him a good deal from a salary cap standpoint. The fact the Edmonton Oilers do not see this helps to explain why they have been a poor team for as long as they have.
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