If the Oilers are going to trade a right wing…

The Oilers have three excellent right wings on the team right now; in terms of depth, no position is stronger. Jordan Eberle, Ales Hemsky and Nail Yakupov are all excellent skill players, and in a perfect world the Oilers would keep all of them. Unfortunately, as the team’s record shows, the Oilers aren’t a perfect team and it seems entirely plausible that they will move one of these players to address problems elsewhere on the roster.

So who goes?

Ales Hemsky

The case to keep him. In terms of value to his team when healthy, Hemsky stands up pretty well on this list. He’s obviously a better NHL’er in the here and now than Nail Yakupov, a 19-year old playing his first season of professional hockey. Despite the widely perceived difference in their talent levels, the version of Hemsky who played for the Oilers from 2005-11 stacks up pretty well against Jordan Eberle, too. Critics happily point to his low goal totals, ignoring the fact that he led the Oilers in scoring for four consecutive years and was often the lone tent pole holding up a flagging offence. To pick the most egregious example, in 2007-08 Hemsky scored just 20 goals but he would have led the team in total points even if he hadn’t scored one. Most of all, though, Hemsky’s perceived trade value is much lower than the other two players on this list: the names available for a package centered on Hemsky aren’t going to compare with the names available for a package centered on Eberle or Yakupov.

The case to trade him. While Hemsky’s past work may be underappreciated, he’s slowed of late. His scoring dropped off last season and his ability to drive shots and scoring chances has dropped off this year. He turns 30 in the summer. Injuries will always be a concern. In terms of salary, his current deal only has a $1 million lower cap hit than Jordan Eberle’s upcoming contract. Put shortly: right now he may not be the player he once was, his bargain contract days are in the past, and he’s on the wrong side of his career curve.

Jordan Eberle

The case to keep him. This is an easy case to make, so there isn’t much point in belabouring it. Eberle is 22 years old and scored 34 goals and 76 points last year. He is beloved in the market (not least by our fine proprietor). He is a very good young player and there isn’t a team in the league that wouldn’t love to have him on the roster.

The case to trade him. Really it starts with the last line of the last paragraph: every team in the league would love to have this player. The trade value of a player like Eberle is extreme; if the Oilers want to add, say, a young number one defenceman to improve the club’s balance Eberle is more likely to land that guy than Hemsky or Yakupov. That’s the biggest single reason an Eberle trade makes some sense. There’s more, though. Eberle is about to get paid ($6 million/year for the next six seasons) and there is still some question about how good he is offensively. A lot went right last year – from personal shooting percentage to on-ice shooting percentage to the matchups he played – and it’s far from certain he can continue to put up the sort of numbers he did last season.

Nail Yakupov

The case to keep him. Yakupov’s raw, but he might end up a franchise player. This is the guy who beat Steve Stamkos rookie records in Sarnia, the guy who out-scored Taylor Hall in their respective draft years prior to injury, and the guy who even ignoring injury looked a lot like Tyler Seguin at the same age. He skates like the wind, might already be the best pure shooter on the team, and doesn’t get nearly enough credit for his willingness and ability to play a physical game (he’s sort of the opposite of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins physically; one is reasonably tall and lanky, the other shorter but solid). Even with the caliber of the young talent on this Oilers’ team, when all of these guys are in their prime Yakupov might end up as the best in the group – he’s that talented. There is a huge amount of risk in trading a player with his physical talents.

The case to trade him. In a word: need. It’s the same case that was made when the question of whether or not to draft Yakupov was asked: do the Oilers really need another young winger, or are they better off addressing another position? Yakupov’s upside makes him an extremely attractive commodity on the trade market, should the Oilers choose to go that route.

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  • i know hemsky has been our best player for quite a while but do you really want to take the risk next year of him either getting injured or not playing well like he has in the past? i would much rather yakupov patrol the second line next year because he hasnt had double shoulder surgery and hes an emotional player. hes th kind of guy who will put somebody through the boards and when he hears the crowd roaring he will put someone else through the boards right after.his intensity is 10X what hemsky can muster up.

    nothing wrong with quiet guys but we need some character on this team.

  • JDP

    Its time to realize that we no longer need prospects…we need to fill an IMMEDIATE need. We need value back that fills a role NOW. I really dont think Hemsky can bring back anything solid. A package deal including hemsky….maybe. I also dont see RNH as a first line centre. Too small. Something to think about as well.

    • TeeVee

      RNH is only 19. He was listed as 6-0 at 18 and now 6-1 at 19, so he’s definitely still growing. Will he hit 6-2? Who knows. He’s not going to fill his frame out for another 3-4 years and will be continuing to grow stronger during that time.

      Way to early in the young man’s life to say he’s too small.

    • ‘I don’t see RNH as a first line centre because he’s too small’ strikes me as flat-out crazy. If you don’t like his talent that’s one thing, but calling him on size is just batty.

      Particularly in the town where Wayne Gretzky played the most important years of his career.

  • If the plan is to bring in grittier forwards, I think it would be best to keep our grittiest forwards to play with them.

    My ranking of our top 6 who I think are capable of playing an edgey, in your face style (most to least):

    Hall, Yak, Gags, Ebs, RNH, Hemsky.

    RNH is the most untouchable player on this team, imo, so he’s not going anywhere. I would shop Hemsky and Ebs first.

  • Pinoy-ler

    I think if Tambellini was to trade Eberle, his asking price would be through the roof. If Ebs was to be traded, it should have been at the 2010 draft to Boston for Toronto’s pick that was Tyler Seguin.

  • northof51

    Oh to be an NHL GM… I’m all for the Oilers doing something, but I like the idea of keeping Ebs, Yak and for that matter, RNH, Hall and J Schultz in the untouchable category.

    I recall the Flyers dealing from a position of strength, turning over their forward core to fill their needs. While the Voracek deal has seemingly turned out, the Schenn’s aren’t towing the load, and unloading JVR looks like a big mistake.

  • oilabroad

    I would hate to trade him but if Eberle gets you Hamilton, I make that trade and never look back… It is a bit of a flawed question, as Hemsky doesnt have the value to get us what we need…
    Agreed with JW, wouldnt trade Yak, way too much upside there

    • Ducey

      Maybe this year, but the fact he would help underlines the fact this isn’t a playoff team.

      Next year, his cap hit would be problematic for what he would likely offer.

      There is a reason everyone else passed on him.

  • I agree with JW; the Yak should be considered untouchable—there is just too much dynamic raw talent and promise oozing out of him to trade him.

    If we can get a player for Hemmer, let’s do it. His best days are gone, his body is broken and has some hard miles on it and he deserves to win something for all of his toil during some dark dark years here.

    Eberle: if he got us something good (ie. a roster player of significance in a position of need), I would do it. I guess I can understand the concern for #4’s happiness with his best bud, but how unhappy would Hall be during the summer hanging out with said best bud on a boat somewhere……with the Stanley Cup that the oilers just won? Building a team is about building winner; the priority should not be to make sure everyone’s friends are around.

    Eberle is a little bit flawed for all of his gifts. He is small and not physical at all, and when he does not have the puck, he is kind of invisible. And this year, he seems to have gotten into this maddening pattern of always looking for the pretty play when all that needs doing sometimes is the puck goes to the net followed by everyone else, sticks swinging and elbows up.

  • JDP

    I’m a big Hemsky fan and think that if we deal him we are likely going to get the return we should. But from a cap management standpoint it might make the most sense.

    I don’t see how you can keep all of the above plus Eberle and the #1s;
    1. Gagner 5+ million
    2. Smid 4 million
    3. Horcoff 5.5 million cap hit
    4. Hemsky 5 million

    I think one of these guys has to go. To me it becomes about who is least valuable to this team and who can get you the best return.

    I think this team is more competitive with Horcoff then it is with Hemsky. And I think that Hemsky can get you more return than Horcoff.

    With the Bruins as a potential suitor, salary has to come back. But I think you have to take salary for next year. Could a deal with Hemsky/Whitney for Peverley & potentially a 1st round pick or a good prospect be a fit? Not sure if Hemsky & Whitney can fetch the first or if Peverley would waive his NTC to go to Edmonton. But Peverley is the kind of guy we need, versatile can play all three forward positions and can play on 1st, 2nd, 3rd lines. It would free up 1.75 million to be put toward signing Smid.

  • Ogie Oilthorpe

    Was wondering where Jonathan was all morning.. My pick is still Hemsky (seems pretty unanimous), but it would be nice to get some picks back that we could package up to fill a current roster need.

    Jonathan, do you give any creadence to the Whitney Bean Town rumors?

  • On another note, does Iginla to the Pens now increase Hemsky’s value. Is there another scoring winger out there potentially on the trade block?

    Colorado should be sellers, but what, if anyone would they sell? Stasny maybe?

  • smiliegirl15

    Trading Eberle and Yak seem like a non starter as Tambi has already stated he will not sell the future for short term gains.

    I like the cases you make for and against for all three players, but would you not agree it seems most likely to trade Hemmer simply because we have a potentially better right wing, ready to step into his slot on the second line?

    I realize we don’t get as much beck for Hemmer, but if one of them goes, it has to be him does it not?

    Maybe if we were sitting in 6th wanting to make a dramatic run to the cup ala Kings trades last year, but we’re not quite there yet. I know the idea of another wait and see year is terrifying, but with another deep draft, and the possibility of Klefbomb helping improve the backend. Maybe the holes that need plugged aren’t so great as everyone thinks.

    What do you see as reasonable return for Hemmer, both now at the deadline and in the off season? A second round pick? Nathan Horton? A good D prospect from Detroit?

    • At the deadline, I imagine the return for Hemsky alone being comparable for the return the Oilers got on Dustin Penner.

      In the off-season, a trade for a less-talented/more physical winger or a second-pairing defenceman is what I would expect to see.

      • Ducey

        I think we see Hemsky as being worth more than what other teams see him being worth.

        I would bet most GM’s see him as talented but soft and inegmatic.

        A few guys like Spector and Rishaug have said the scouts they talk to from other teams don’t think he is worth much.

        If thats the case, then keep him.

        I see no reason to trade any of these three at this time.

        When the time does come, its pretty obviously Hemsky.

        • It certainly does depend on value – if the team can’t add something useful (a low first and a prospect) than there isn’t much point in trading Hemsky. At this point, the salary isn’t a huge problem and if they aren’t adding pieces of real value there’s no sense in moving him just to move him.

          • Eberle was the low first and Smid the prospect in the Pronger trade.

            With the salary cap dropping, I suspect it’s going to be very hard to sell players with money owing at the draft. On the other hand, there are certainly going to be teams trying to offload those players. If you add a low first and a decent prospect after clearing Hemsky’s salary, it gives you a lot of options to add a quality piece heading into next season.

          • I don’t disagree. But the Oilers probably have to go 11-4-1 to make the playoffs this year.

            Barring a miracle run, it’s over, and I don’t think it makes sense to bank on a miracle run when making management decisions about the team.

  • RexLibris

    Imagine for a moment if Steve Tambellini was able to garner an equal or greater return for Hemsky than Feaster was for Iginla.

    That would be a nice payback for his “wandering in the desert comments”, or the Flames tweet last February mocking the Hemsky re-signing.

    • GVBlackhawk

      It won’t take much to get a better return than that — brutal trade. I have spoken to quite a few Flames fans today and they aren’t very happy with the return.

  • Why the hell make a panic move and trade any of them? This is insane. Keep all three, let the kids (Eberle, Yak, Hall, RNH) develop, and see what’s out there in free agency once the season ends. As is, this team still has a shot at the playoffs in this goofy, strike-shortened season. I’d rather they miss the playoffs this year than dump Hemsky for the slight chance at a playoff spot and an ugly first round exit. I mean, really…

    • WinterNightSky

      If the average player retires betweenn the age of 32 to 34 yrs old and ur a 28 yr old UFA. Why would u come to Edmonton. We are far away from competing for the Stanley Cup. It’s all about winning at that age.

  • RexLibris

    I think we need to stop looking at Hemsky being the trade that brings back that tough forward or veteran defenseman that the Oilers so desperately need.

    What he might bring back are assets that could be matched up with other Oilers assets to bring in that player.

    So while Hemsky may no do it alone, perhaps his return contributes to a larger package to interest potential trade partners.

    If he isn’t traded at the deadline, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the Oilers decided to trade him at the draft.

    • smiliegirl15

      I agree and Im not wearing rose colored glasses as to who we get for Hemsky, a draft pick, a good prospect…whatever. What the orginization needs to do is continue to move out players who have run past their due date. Hemsky is not and nor has he ever been (except in brief teasing flashes) “THE GUY” so as he moves into the late stages of his career …let him go.

    • GVBlackhawk

      Are they married?

      I don’t understand why you think that Hall wouldn’t stay because they traded Eberle. This is professional sports and that is part of the business.

      Hall would be happy with the return that Eberle would command. And I’m sure he would rather win Stanley Cups than play with his buddy.

      • Rob...

        You assumed I meant he wouldn’t stay. I elaborated further down on the first page of comments as to what I meant.

        You are also assuming that what we got back would more than make up for Eberle’s departure. Win-Win trades are a possibility, but more often than not, one of the teams loses the deal. There is no guarantee that Edmonton would improve through an Eberle trade.

    • Why?

      Edit for clarity: I understand the theory that Hall would likely prefer to keep Eberle on the team, but there seems to be a lot of certainty in that comment that Hall would jump ship if the Oilers dealt Eberle, and I don’t see such certainty as necessarily warranted.

      • Rob...

        I’m not suggesting he would jump ship, but given his age I think this would affect him. At the very least there would be an initial sulk, that would probably extend and grow if the player(s) we got for Eberle don’t have a quick and noticeable impact.

        This is a business, and Hall would understand that. I do think he could accept Eberle being traded, but I don’t think that necessarily translates to the same level of intensity on the ice that we are used to after such a trade occurred.

        “Edited to remove a double-negative”