One of the longest serving Oilers on the current roster is Ales Hemsky and even he doesn’t know what his future holds with the Edmonton franchise. Yesterday was his 30th birthday and while the Twitter world continues to send wishes his way, it’s worth exploring the potential scenarios that could play out with the flashy winger.
Over the course of the last two seasons there has been plenty of trade chatter surrounding Hemsky, even after he signed a two-year extension back in 2012 that will see him under contract through this upcoming year. He’ll earn $5.5 million this season and will be one of the highest paid Oilers despite not necessarily being ranked as one on the depth charts. There’s a good chance we’ll see number 83 penciled in on the third line for much of the year, providing he isn’t traded before then.
A trade is still possible but unlikely at this point in time. Craig MacTavish all but said he would try and deal Hemsky when the former player took over the GM reins back in the spring. Despite various rumors, a deal was never completed that involved Hemsky and many have their reasoning. A bloated salary coupled with average point production from a gifted winger that can’t guarantee he’ll be healthy enough to play 60 games in a season are just a few concerns that other teams surely had despite being in a position to benefit from his services.
As the NHL Entry Draft approached it was thought that both Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff would be moved and while the captain was sent packing shortly there after, Hemsky’s trade market never really developed. MacTavish learnt first hand that moving a player like Hemsky doesn’t happen overnight and now the club is all but guaranteed to start the season with him.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing either. Yes, he still brings a lot of value to this roster and judging by MacTavish’s decision to not use a buy-out on him, he would agree. His slick puck handling skills can help create some scoring chances for his linemates and given the nature of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins‘ injury, Hemsky will be relied upon to fill in on the top two lines until Nuge can return to game action. Barring any serious injuries to Hemsky himself of course.
But as the year rolls on and what is hopefully a healthy roster for most of the year, Hemsky’s role in Edmonton will diminish. The first line is a lock with Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins, as is the second line with newly acquired David Perron, Sam Gagner and Nail Yakupov. Is Hemsky an ideal third line winger? Not when you consider what the Oilers need from their bottom six forwards and that’s a crash and bang style complimented by a tight checking, defense first approach. That doesn’t exactly fit Hemsky’s game.
Considering that Hemsky is entering the last year of his contract and set to be an unrestricted free agent next summer, it would be a long shot for the Oilers to even consider signing him to another extension. Meaning a trade at some point through out the season is the best course of action for Hemsky and the Oilers.
In an ideal world Hemsky would put up big numbers in the first two months of the season, helping the Oilers keep pace in the early part of the playoff race. All the while boosting his trade value for a club that is lacking scoring and in desperate need to acquire someone of Hemsky’s caliber. Even then, the return for the former first round draft pick would be minimal but it could present the opportunity to acquire that big bodied, third line winger the Oilers so desperately need.
For now, barring some unforeseen trade, Ales Hemsky will begin the season as an Oiler. Where he finishes the season remains to be seen but there’s an excellent chance it won’t be in copper and blue.