When the Edmonton Oilers named Craig MacTavish as the new GM, one of the first things he said was that changes were needed in order to restore glory to this once proud franchise. Living up to his promise, MacTavish appears to be willing to part ways with two veteran players; long time Oiler and current captain Shawn Horcoff and forward Ales Hemsky.
Appearing on The Team 1260 with Mark Spector, MacTavish made it clear that the future in Edmonton likely doesn’t have Horcoff or Hemsky in it stating “an ideal scenario would be to move them on and wish them the best in the next destination.”
If both Horcoff and Hemsky are “valuable” players then why are they not part of the plan for the next season in Edmonton? Or is this a case of kind words before the Oilers cut ties with their captain and number 83.
Horcoff has two years left on his 6-year deal that hits the Oilers salary cap for $5.5 million annually. To say he’s lost a step or two in his game would be accurate given his offensive numbers over the past few years.
Last season he played in 31 games and registered 12 points. The year prior he played in 81 games and put up just 34 points. Season before that – 47 games and 27 points. In 2009-10 – 77 games and just 36 points. You get the idea. Not exactly the type of offensive contribution you’d expect from a guy making over $5 million a year.
But Horcoff does bring value to this club in the form of faceoffs and penalty killing. One of the Oilers top faceoff men, he has become a reliable option to win a key draw late in the game. His ability to defend the Oilers zone when down a man is also a strong suit for Horcoff, something that he has hopefully passed on to the younger players.
In this game though, sometimes the bad outweigh the good and the fact is that Horcoff is making too much money to be putting up less than average numbers. The result will be either a trade or a buyout I’m thinking.
The same goes for Ales Hemsky. Still just 29-years old, it feels like we’ve been watching number 83 dangle around opponents for a lifetime. Actually it’s been a decade but he too has seen his numbers decline thanks to injuries and now it may not be worth it to pay him $5 million annually.
There are some Oiler fans that believe Hemsky still brings great value to the Oilers. His ability to stick handle in a phone booth and create a scoring chance from a relatively dead situation is unique.
But his health is concering given the fact that he hasn’t played a full season since 2005-06 when he played in 81 games. Since then the most he’s played was in 74 games back in 2007-08.
Hemsky still has value, absolutely. Which is why it makes sense to try and trade him versus buying him out and allowing him to walk away and get nothing in return.
It’s hard to say what the return would be for the Oilers. In need of some help on the blue line they would be wise to target a defenseman that could step in and play as a number four or five guy. That might be too much to ask for, but Hemsky is a player that can still put up the points if he can stay healthy.
Change is coming and it’s a welcomed sight if it’s done correctly. Part of me will miss seeing Hemsky use his slick hands to finesse the puck between a defender’s legs. But the old way wasn’t working and having no playoff hockey for an eighth straight season isn’t really an option either.
Thanks to Horcoff and Hemsky for their service and all they’ve done for the Oilers. If this is truly the end of their time in Edmonton, thanks for the memories and best of luck at your next stop.