February 20 2014 01:04PM
Ales Hemsky led the Czech Republic in scoring with three goals and four points at the Sochi Olympics. Despite only playing 12 minutes a game, he showed NHL general managers that if he plays with offensive players he can still produce.
Did his Olympic performance increase his trade value?
I don't like writing about a player being traded. I don't look at them as commodities and I realize that getting dealt involves more than just the player. I don't take it lightly, but I understand it is part of the job.
I've always been a fan of Hemsky. Last June Craig MacTavish said, "in an ideal scenario" Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff would be traded. Horcoff was eventually moved to Dallas, while MacTavish stated he couldn't find a fair deal for Hemsky and welcomed him back to Edmonton at training camp.
I wrote this about Hemsky last summer.
For the past decade Hemsky has been the most exciting player on the Edmonton Oilers. For many, he will be remembered as a guy who didn't reach his full potential, but I loved watching him play. Up until the arrival of Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov, the only player who could bring Oiler fans out of their seats on a nightly basis was Hemsky.
He was a joy to watch. He was the only Oiler who could consistently beat defenders one-on-one, and for most of his tenure he had to face the opposition's best defenders. He was fearless, never shied away from contact and that was the main reason he missed 189 games during his 10 years in Edmonton.
Hemsky is one of the most naturally gifted players in the NHL, and I firmly believe, if he worked on his game like the great players do, he could have been a truly dominant player. I wish he would have worked on his one-timer and shooting after practice, but he didn't. While you wish he would have worked harder after practice, it would be incorrect to suggest he didn't play hard during the games.
Hemsky was a baller. I'll always remember Ethan Moreau, who stayed in the NHL on pure guts and effort, telling me this about Hemsky. "He goes into areas I never would. He's not scared of anyone, and that's why sometimes he gets hit hard, because he doesn't back down."
Today's game is all about speed. If you don't have speed you won't last, and Hemsky is one of the most underrated skaters in the game.
It would be easy to chastise Hemsky and applaud his upcoming departure out of Edmonton, but I won't. Hemsky wasn't perfect, but since he arrived in Edmonton in the fall of 2002 he's been the most electrifying, and at times frustrating, player Oiler fans had the pleasure of watching.
Hemsky was never comfortable talking on the record. He didn't like doing interviews, but when we just sat down to shoot the breeze he was much more engaging. Hemsky grew up in Edmonton. He fell in love in Edmonton, and he always spoke highly of the city.
I've always admired Hemsky's abilities. He is one of the few players who skates as fast with that puck as he does without it. He can still undress some of the best players in the game, like he did vs. Duncan Keith in Chicago on January 12th, and I believe his Olympic performance will increase his trade value.
I've spoke to numerous scouts and general managers the past few months, and when I ask them about Hemsky they all rave about his speed and offensive creativity. He has value, and as the deadline approaches his stock will continue to increase.
Dallas Eakins hasn't used Hemksy in an offensive role very often this year, and his stats have suffered, but he can still be productive in a top-six role.
The Oilers have Jordan Eberle and Nail Yakupov as top line right wingers, and I don't see any reason why Hemsky would avoid testing free agency and re-sign in Edmonton just to be a third line winger. Because of that, I expect MacTavish will move him before March 5th.
Hemsky's trade value mirrors his perception amongst Oilers fans. Some think he won't attract more than a 3rd rounder, while others feel he could land the Oilers a first round pick or a solid prospect. I'd lean more towards the latter.
Teams overpay at the deadline just like they do in free agency. It happens every year, and I don't see this year being any different. Here's a quick look at some recent trade deadline deals that garnered a decent return.
Nashville trades Martin Erat and Micheal Latta to Washington for Filip Forsberg (11th overall pick).
San Jose trades Ryan Clowe to the Rangers for 2013 2nd + 3rd round picks and a conditional 2014 2nd rounder.
Buffalo trades Paul Gaustad to Nashville for a 1st round pick.
Toronto trades Tomas Kaberle to Boston for a 1st rounder, a conditional 2nd rounder and Joel Colbourne.
Toronto trades Kris Versteeg to Philadelphia for a 1st and 3rd rounder.
Ottawa trades Mike Fisher to Nashville for a 1st rounder and a conditional draft pick.
Also during that time Dominic Moore has been traded three different times, and each time he was dealt for a 2nd rounder. Hemsky is a much better player than Moore, and should garner a better return than a 2nd round pick.
Hemsky has a $5 million cap hit, but on March 5th his cap hit would be just over $1 million. The Oilers could offer to pay half his cap hit, because they have cap space, and that means more teams would be in the mix to acquire him.
The Oilers have put themselves in a position where trading Hemsky is the only option. They could keep him and hope to re-sign him, but that would be a huge risk. Hemsky didn't test the free agent market two years ago, and at 30 years of age he will never get another chance to see what type of contract he could get during the free agent frenzy.
All the arrows point to Hemsky being dealt. I wish him well, and with only five teams currently out of the playoff picture MacTavish should be able to negotiate a solid trade.
I see no other option than trading Hemsky, but I'm still not a fan of trading proven NHL talent for just prospects or picks, because there is no guarantee those assets will pan out. One of the big mistakes that perennial losers make is that they trade away proven NHL talent for "maybes."
The Oilers have two young right-wingers who they feel are top-six forwards so Hemsky is expendable, but if the return is only draft picks, then the Oilers will lose the trade for at least three years, and possibly forever if the picks don't pan out.
That is the risk in dealing away 30-year-old veterans, but due to his pending free agency it is their only option. The pressure will be on the scouting staff to turn the pick(s) into NHL players.
RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR