If Ales Hemsky has low value, does it make sense to trade him?

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.

The problem

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.


Don’t forget that it’s never too late to play StreakCred – the new playoff pool game from the Nation Network. You can win a trip for 2 to Oktoberfest in Germany among the awesome prizes up for grabs. Now only $10 and a portion of the proceeds go to Edmonton Charities. Sign up here.

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:

  • I think there are teams that would love to have Hemsky. We are not one of them. He needs first or second line minute and PP time to be his best.

    I would love to see Hemsky and our number 7 pick to move us up to 4 or 5. I would guess, as I did when we signed him at 5 mil per, that we would have to eat half of his salary to make him attractive in a trade.

    I think we made a huge mistake at the trade deadling not moving him, and UFAs we are going to let walk and some of out vets we are looking at trading now.

    You would think we could have got something for Whitney (even a late pick) and Khabi.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      I would love to see Hemsky and our number 7 pick to move us up to 4 or 5. I would guess, as I did when we signed him at 5 mil per, that we would have to eat half of his salary to make him attractive in a trade.

      This is really the only option. Would certainly be the actions of a team that wants to push out the deadwood on their hockey team. Push out guys who live at that sub 95% effort level. Edmonton is best letting someone else do their homework for them. They clearly get in trouble when they fall far enough down the draft order to allow them to do stupid things. If they don’t realized selling the farm to get their hands on MacKinnon or Barkov isn’t their best option, we’re doomed to yet another cellar dweller finish. I’m sure even Barkov could leave Horcoff and Belanger in his dust his first year. We don’t hear it very often, but these kids are slowed significantly by the loser entrenched veterans behind them. Getting rid of Hemsky is that ounce of medication that brings about a pound of healing. Imagine if we could give Horcoff that same ounce of medication. Barkov and Clarkson, rather than Horc and Hemmer, may just be that pound of cure.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        Here we go again. You tell us all, please, why any of Colorado, Florida, Tampa, Nashville, Carolina, or Calgary would trade away a crack at what you are saying is an elite difference maker (for the price of an ELC), for a 5 million dollar indifferent locker room cancer (by your estimation) and a lower draft pick. Mike Milbury has left the building.

          • Quicksilver ballet

            Relax, Slug just likes to take swings at ideas that aren’t his first. He’d be the first on here celebrating if the Oil made a move to get their hands on Barkov or MacKinnon. You might want to go back and prop your own comment there Northern, it looks so lonely there, standing there at the bus stop, all by itself.

          • Bushed

            You got that right, I’d be dancing in the streets. But it ain’t going to happen. And if you don’t stop fantasizing, you’ll go blind. Or at least have to start shaving your palms.

          • Quicksilver ballet

            The winds of change will soon be upon us.

            Not sure if it’s coming this summer, or next, but Lowes going to pull another Pronger type move to get things kick started in the right direction again. Without that hope, well, we may all have nothing better to do but start shaving our palms.

        • Quicksilver ballet

          Tampa,Nashville and Carolina would all have good use for Hemsky. Heck, what if we subbed 83 for yet another marshmallow in Paajarvi.

          Would the 7th, along with 91 and perhaps even Anaheims 2nd rounder get someones attention? The 7th, along with a second and 91 would be a good starting point. One of those 3 teams would seriously ponder that.

          Since Hemsky’s not much more than a doorstop.

          If Tambellini listened to you, he’d still have a job. Don’t see any of your ideas having any merit.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    Great article.

    Unfortunately it’s up against an immovable force: “the idiosyncratic distaste a fan has for a player on his team”

    You can’t argue with that. It’s not trying to solve problems.

  • Minister D-

    Oilers figured he was a $5.0M forward , and was a having a good year going until the foot incident . Put him on the open market and I bet he still gets a $5.0 M contract .

  • Quicksilver ballet

    If nobody else is wanting his indifferent attitude in their dressing room, why do we need it? His enjoyment of the game here in Edmonton left yrs ago. Do him, and yourselves a favour and give him a fresh start. We’ve seen enough of his act here. Let him play in his comfort zone at someone elses expense.

    With Lowe in charge, endorsing the likes of 10,20,83,89 and 94, this team is still 2 or even 3 yrs away from being a playoff team, if at all. The Cavalry (6-8 moves) isn’t coming to lovable loser Oil Country. It’ll be half that, and then only 5-10 minute a night guys. Edmonton needs two 20 minute a night players in this lineup, and that ain’t happening here unless they’re forced to be here for the sake of their paycheque.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      Where does it say that he is indifferent in the dressing room? If he was an issue in the room, why did Hall come out a year ago and basically say he would like to see him stay? Unless you are an insider, what are you basing this on?

      This is an idea that the local media, who he has a frosty relationship (at best), and the Oilers PR machine (Stauffer) has propogated and fans have bought into. If he was that bad of a player in the room, he would not have been re-signed. Remember, the organization killed Penner publicly but in the room he was well liked. Same thing happened with Hemsky when the local media and Oilers PR machine went into character assassination mode prior to the trade deadline last year. Funny, since Whitney was a good quote, they did not say much until the end even though he was a bitter critter since last year…..

      Now, if you want to argue that he holds onto the puck too long, goes offside too much, is injury prone due to the wear and tear over the years, that is fine.

    • Online guy: “His enjoyment of the game left years ago”

      Hemsky: “I didn’t want to sit in the stands, so I tried to play through [a fractured foot].”

      Online guy: “Let him play in his comfort zone at someone elses expense.”

      Hemsky: “I don’t know if it was a smart idea. Maybe I should have taken three weeks off to let it get better.”

      I just don’t understand how a mind can mesh ‘he doesn’t enjoy the game and stays in his comfort zone’ with ‘I played through a broken foot because I didn’t want to stay in the stands’. I don’t get it. Is Hemsky’s comfort zone masochism?

      • Quicksilver ballet

        Would we have been able to tell the difference if he wasn’t playing on a hairline fractured foot? Not likely.

        He took that puck off the foot near the midway point of that 9 gm road trip. The Oilers medical staff clearly has issues. It’s busted, it’s not, who’s making the decisions, Mr. I played with a busted arm Lowe? Same Ship Souray was referring to all over again under this Bozo.

        Hemsky never gives you that 95-100% effort anyways, it’s always been hard to tell if Hemsky’s playing on a busted foot or not.

        Let his act move on down the road. Close the door on the whole works of these 2006 wannabes.

  • LinkfromHyrule

    I think Hemsky just isn’t part of the solution going forward. Trading him, even at lower value forces Mac T to go out and find a replacement for third line RW duty, which could be a bigger, checking, shut down guy to give us a line that is mean, difficult to play against, and can be put out against top lines to grind them into paste, giving our other two scoring lines competition to chew apart.

    On another note. No one has chalked up teams’ success or failures this year to playing in one conference. Honestly, I think it’s hard to get an accurate portrayal of any teams’ progress considering all of them only played conference rivals all year long. That fact, skewed the points in that in order to move up the standings, you had to go through conference rivals. Every game was a four point game.

    Willis, is there anyway you could organize some data around this point and show either why the Oilers will do better in a longer season with Eastern teams’ points up for grabs, or worse?

  • LinkfromHyrule

    I’m sure there are many teams out there who could use someone like hemsky. He’s not past his prime, tougher than most oiler fans seem to think, and he could be a much better player than he seems to be much of the time imo. He’s just gotta get those offsides under control, taking that extra move at the blue line is BRUTAL

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    For years I defended Hemsky. Nowadays I see a player who makes his linemates significantly worse.

    He probably prevented twice as many goals as he scored this past year simply by being offside. At some points I was actually laughing out loud at how pathetic he is in this regard.

    He always looks good, but that’s because he does everything the hard way. Contrast him to a player like Yakupov for example: Yak makes the good pass quickly, and takes the shot at the right time.

    Offensively speaking, we need to move on from the era of Hemsky-like players, and nurture an era of Yakopov-like players.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    Oilers would like to be in the #4 spot or #5 spot and so would a lot of teams.

    I’m sure Oilers if they like Barkov enough or Monahan they will attempt to move up. As well as many other teams for ex Calgary or Buffalo or Columbus

    Unlikely it would happen but if Hemsky could be used they will use him.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    The only reason to trade Hemsky is if you get fair value and since that won’t happen, you cannot trade him.

    However if you wanted to move up in the draft you might add Hemsky not sure what that is worth . But if it is a player Oilers really want they will do it.

    #37 pick plus #52 pick plus Hemsky = ?

    #7 pick plus Hemsky plus ? = ?

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    ah, the “addition by subtraction” line. although it doesn’t always work out, look at Columbus. they are a better team now WITHOUT Nash, Carter, Brassard, Methot, Dorsett, Mason, Moore, Clitsome, and Russell.

  • Rocket

    I always liked Hemsky & I never questioned his toughness. Going into the corners with Regehr waiting for him takes guts.

    His trade value may be low but if he is part of a package that gets a needed player back & clears cap space, then MacT should at least consider it.

    I don’t think it would be horrible if he stayed but maybe it’s time to finally move on.