May 21 2013 12:07PM
Yesterday, we considered former NHL general manager Craig Button’s point of view on Ales Hemsky – that his trade value is so low that even at a steep discount the Oilers might not get a second round draft pick. While that’s a debatable viewpoint, the truth is that Hemsky is not likely to yield a grand return. With his trade value low, does it even make sense to trade him at this point?
Addition by subtraction?
The temptation here is to say “don’t be an idiot” and move on to the next heading. There’s a vocal subset of the fanbase/media that says things like ‘the Oilers will keep losing as long as Hemsky is in the lineup’ because they’re under the impression that losing is some sort of infectious disease and Hemsky will spread the plague to Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle and Nail Yakupov and all the rest. They do things like call him “the epitome of poor leadership and professional indifference,” “an awful example for an impressionable core” and identify him with a “losing culture.”
It’s funny, reading comments like that, to go back and see what Hemsky had to say when he was being most harshly criticized this season.
Hemsky could have said “I’m playing on a broken foot” and basically earned himself immunity from criticism. Instead, because the team didn’t want him specifying the injury, he kept that to himself – not only that, but he made a point of saying it wasn’t an excuse four times in a three minute clip.
Only after the season did Hemsky really explain what he was going through:
It was a struggle. I wasn’t skating a lot of days, and I couldn’t say anything… but I didn’t want to sit in the stands, so I tried to play through it. I don’t know if it was a smart idea. Maybe I should have taken three weeks off to let it get better. But in the end, I couldn’t do it anymore. It was too much for me, and I wasn’t a factor, either.
This isn’t Mike Grier popping his shoulder back into place on the bench territory, but it’s in the same general family. Personally, I’ve seen Hemsky go into tough areas and take the hit to make a play so often – and he’s paid the price for it, over and over – that I’ve never had any questions about his commitment to winning hockey games. I don’t understand those who do.
None of this is to say that Hemsky is an ideal fit for the team. He has a good shot that he doesn’t use very much. If offsides relative to ice-time were tracked, I’m confident he’d be among the league leaders. He’s a small, skill right wing on a team abounding in small, skill right wings. He has a significant cap hit. And yes, he’s hurt all the time.
In a perfect world, the Oilers would trade him (because it seems beyond question that Nail Yakupov and Jordan Eberle will be better players going forward) for value. If they can’t get that value, what’s the point? Using Button’s scenario, is a second round draft pick and $2.5 million in cap space really worth it?
They aren’t. The Oilers have to be pushing for a playoff spot next season, and Ales Hemsky can help with that more than a second round draft pick and whatever the Oilers can add from a shallow free agent market for $2.5 million will. Keeping him gives the team options. It gives them the option of moving a guy like Eberle if they get a shot at a legitimate number one defenceman in the prime of his career. It gives them the option of not having the third line be a black hole offensively – and briefly last season, when Magnus Paajarvi and Sam Gagner and Nail Yakupov played together on that unit, the team saw how useful three scoring lines could be. It also gives them the option of moving Hemsky at the trade deadline, when player values tend to be at their highest. Finally, if the 29-year old Hemsky can rebound to the near point-per-game level he played at from 2005-2011, it ensures the Oilers and not some other team are the beneficiaries.
I think it makes perfect sense for the Oilers to trade Hemsky if they can get a legitimate return on him. I think it makes no sense to toss him away for a bag of pucks.
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Recently around the Nation Network
One of the names available in this year's painfully thin edition of free agency is Winnipeg Jets forward Kyle Wellwood, assuming the Jets don't re-sign him before that. In Kyle Wellwood's Worth, Travis Hrubeniuk proffers his own answer on whether the Jets should let the veteran walk:
This offseason will be a busy one for the Jets, but one thing is clear to me. They need Kyle Wellwood in a Jets uniform and letting him walk is completely unacceptable.
Click the link above to read the whole piece, or feel free check out some recent pieces here at Oilers Nation:
- Lowetide: The Oilers and the combine list
- Willis: Former NHL GM says "I don't know if they can get [a second round pick] for Hemsky"
- Lowetide: A pinch of sin
- Willis: There's an advantage to focusing on European goalies
- Willis: Is the Oilers' farm team properly developing players?
- Follow Jonathan Willis on Twitter!