What to do with Hemsky?
- Updated: July 27, 2013
This has been a year and a half in the making. It’s not the fact that he’s a bad player. It’s not that he is a bad guy. It’s that he still lives in the remnants of a 2006 game 7 Stanley Cup Final loss to Carolina. Ales Hemsky may have his name above a locker at Rexall, but he doesn’t play with the same Oilers that we as fans have been watching for the past few seasons. The injury really didn’t help, but I think this has been a mindset thing from the beginning. A young guy, drafted to an organization with such prestige, and allure, participating and competing on the biggest stage in Hockey, Phillip Pritchard and his white gloves waiting in the wings to bring the world’s greatest prize down a red carpet to Gary Bettman, only to fall short. The empty net goal that Eric Staal scored late, igniting RBC Centre, was the goal that essentially ended a possibility of Edmonton retaining the talent that got them there. Hemsky, unlike other members of the roster continued to perform at a high level for the Oilers going through the motions of a team in such disarray. Putting up 2 more high quality seasons until a debilitating ankle injury sidelined him for an extended period of time. At that point the successes of years prior were far in the rearview mirror and the future was grim.
Clearly when Mac T took over the GM’s office, there were changes to be made. Some changes were obvious to all, and some changes were made without the support of some Oiler fans. The wheels were clearly set into motion when at season’s end, Craig MacTavish pointed out the direction that he wanted the team to go in and which players would help them do that. Horcoff and Hemsky were specifically singled out as pieces that didn’t fit in the Oilers puzzle. Horcoff was shortly thereafter moved to the Stars in a deal that continues to blow fans away. It was at that point, that Hemsky’s time was clearly nearing its end. If MacT could move 10’s contract, Hemsky’s would be a piece of cake. We are learning now, that may not be the case. There’s clearly not a lot of interest across the league for a beleaguered, top 6, veteran with a 5 million dollar cap hit this season. New Jersey’s name popped up on many occasions, specifically when long-time superstar Ilya Kovalchuck, announced his retirement from the NHL. I don’t think New Jersey is the eventual landing spot for this talented, young forward. Where will he land? It really is anyone’s guess. In my mind, he’s going to one of 4 teams.
The first team has to be the Ottawa Senators. Building speed around an existing veteran crew (sans Alfredsson) would be a task that Hemsky would be able to assume readily. Would he be a top 6 forward? I think so. It would depend on his initial production but looking at that roster, he would be a great compliment to the guys already there.
Next possibility is the New York Islanders. Looking at the Islanders from a cap standpoint makes you think they may have a GM with some sense, so taking on a contract like Hemsky’s, while viable, may not be a good business decision. But if they are looking to add even more depth to the few weapons on offense that they have, it would make sense to send a few looks his way.
Another potential landing spot I can see, and in my opinion the most likely is the Buffalo Sabers. They have a bit of room to work with as far as the cap is concerned, especially if they still plan on moving Thomas Vanek. If they keep him around, you can probably count on Hemsky not making a move to Buffalo, but I think that the rebuild mindset that this organization is beginning to take; tells me that Vanek will be somewhere else next season, so they will need someone to fill in as a scorer.
The final bench that Hemsky may occupy at season’s start is that of his current team, the Edmonton Oilers. If the price isn’t right, and no deal makes sense, it would not be in the team’s best interest to take a lesser return. If you start Hemsky on the 3rd line in Edmonton, that will be a way to showcase his skills to any potential buyers in the best way as well as utilize him as an asset whilst dawning the copper and blue. If a deal is done and Hemsky is moved in the offseason, the current return would probably be a bottom six forward to work in and out of the lineup or a low draft pick. I personally would like to see Hemsky start the season as an Oiler and be moved during the season after he has showed that he still has the form and talent to be a difference-maker in any organization. If you can squeeze anything else out of him to get a better return, that only makes sense.
Whether you like the guy or hate the guy who wears an 83 on the back and on Oil drop in the front, all signs point to Ales Hemsky’s days as an oiler declining. He’s been a sight to see in Edmonton, but as far as I’m concerned in the game of chess between Hemsky and the future of the Edmonton Oilers, we have reached “Czech Mate.”