Are the Edmonton Oilers overvaluing their players?

Last night on Sportsnet, television analyst Mark Spector made a couple of claims. The first wasn’t surprising; according to him “people around the hockey world” think Edmonton overvalues its players. Further, he said that the Oilers should not expect to get more than a third round pick for pending free agent Ales Hemsky.

Here’s the full quote:

When you talk to people around the hockey world, what you find out is the Edmonton Oilers are overvaluing their players. That’s why Ales Hemsky has been on the trade block for I think the last three trade deadlines. He’ll be there again as a UFA this year; word on the street is the Oilers shouldn’t expect more than a third-round pick for Ales Hemsky. On the Sam Gagner front, there’s another guy that scouts say ‘what is he?’ He doesn’t win faceoffs very well, he’s a small centre, I’m not sure if he’s a third-line centre, maybe a second-line centre. $4.8 million the next two years for Sam Gagner; another tough trade for Craig MacTavish.

Overvaluing Players

“Overvaluing players” is something we hear a lot about these days. There are very few mid-season trades in the NHL for lots of reasons, but the biggest one is this: lots and lots of teams are in the playoff races, so the teams selling players off have a wide market and very little competition. Naturally, the 25-or-so teams that want to buy players complain that the market to add talent is just too expensive; they change their minds around the deadline as they run out of time to add personnel for their goal of ‘getting into the playoffs’ or ‘winning a round’ or ‘winning the Cup’.

Look at the Eastern Conference this year. The 15th-place New York Islanders and eight points out and sick of rebuilding, while Dale Tallon is managing for his job under a new owner in Florida. The 13 teams above them are all in the thick of the playoff hunt. The point is: nobody is selling. So the guys who sell can charge almost whatever they want; it’s how Buffalo managed to land a first-round draft pick for Paul Gaustad in a season where he had 17 points.

As for the specific idea that Edmonton overvalues its players, that doesn’t harmonize with reality. Since October 1, there have been 14 trades in the NHL. The Oilers have been involved in four of them, selling off Mike Brown and Ladislav Smid and Jason LaBarbera and Linus Omark. No team has had more success in moving players in a stalled market.

So “people around the hockey world” can whine and complain because they don’t want to pay deadline prices to add players. They always complain about that. Then they add the players anyway. So there’s almost certainly no reason for Oilers fans to be anything but happy when they hear rivals moaning about what a miser Craig MacTavish is.

Ales Hemsky

Does Spector’s claim about Hemsky’s value harmonize with trade deadlines past? Here’s a list of all forwards with expiring contracts moved solely for draft picks over the last three deadlines:

There are two players on this list who might be seen as relatively equivalent to Hemsky at the time of their trades. A 38-year-old Alexei Kovalev went to Pittsburgh for basically nothing. Andrei Kostitsyn cost Nashville a second round pick and a fifth round pick.

Hemsky’s a better player than either of those guys were at the time of the trade. He’s embraced a checking line role when it became clear that was where the coach wanted him, and he’s had some success there. He’s played through pain and injury, both this year and last year. Memorably last season, he played through a broken foot, and because the team didn’t want him to divulge that he kept his mouth shut about the specifics even as local columnists (hello again, Mark Spector) claimed he was “the epitome of poor leadership and professional indifference” and “an awful example for an impressionable core.”

Doubtless, there are teams out there that would be happy to take Hemsky off the Oilers’ hands for a third-round pick. But if MacTavish can’t get at least Kostitsyn value for Hemsky he isn’t doing his job.

Recently by Jonathan Willis

  • bazmagoo

    Happy to see Dubnyk get a fresh start, think Hendricks is a good fit for our 4th line, but not particularly happy the Oilers are still on the hook for half of Dubnyk’s salary. Considering Dubnyk is unlikely to sign in Nashville next season though, it’s a small win for the Oilers. We need to get grittier and better defensively in our bottom 6, Hendricks will improve that hopefully.*edit* Wow Scrivens, that’s a win for the Oilers!

  • bazmagoo

    Dubnyk had his chance to be a #1 goalie, I’d say it’s extremely unlikely he ever gets put in that position again. I’d wager he signs a 1 – 1.5 million deal as a backup tender somewhere (likely not Nashville) in the off season, for 1 – 2 seasons max. I’d bet he never becomes a starter anywhere.

  • pkam

    I was wondering what Dubnyk was doing in that Chicago game. He took 2 undisciplined penalties which is uncharacteristic of him. I guess he probably knew the Oilers were shopping him.

  • Serious Gord

    Spector is 100% correct. The oilers chronically overvalue their inventory.

    And hemsky is so overpaid (part of the overvalue syndrome) he has negative value in a trade and a third rounder would be a more the fair return that only a team under extreme short-term duress would offer.

    The Dubnyk deal is good from the standpoint that the two teams address a need. That said it is yet another case of the oil overvaluing a player.

    Scrivens is NOT a number one goalie on any GOOD team. So I hope that MacT doesn’t do the same thing he did last year with dubnyk and try to go into next year with Scrivens as his number one (and Bachman as his backup?). If he does we are looking at potentially another disaster season.

    And where does Hendricks play? 4C? On a team as bad as this he would not even be on an nhl roster. So dubnyk gets traded for a player who likely will not be part of the future – likely not even next year.

  • Zarny

    Every team “over-values” their own players and every team “under-values” every other teams’ players.

    No one overvalues or undervalues players as much as fans do though. Fans will call Gagner worthless based on a tough half-season or will cry that Dubnyk was worth more because of what he did last year or the year before. Reality is always somewhere in the middle.

    Curious what some think they could get for a G with a 3.36 GAA and 0.894 SV% lol.

  • pkam

    Dubnyk is unrestricted after season so MacT traded to Preds for 4th liner guy. That’s not bad, hopefully Scrivens can play well here (he played ok with bad Leafs defense also).

  • pkam

    Serious Gord wrote:

    Scrivens is NOT a number one goalie on any GOOD team…

    You may well be correct in this assessment,but if he’s better(it would be hard to be worse) than Dubnyk, and doesn’t let in the prerequisite minimum of one soft one per game,are we still not further ahead?

    • pkam

      It is a very different game playing in LA, compare to playing here or in Toronto. You are not just following the puck, here you have to constantly monitoring how many opponents are left free in dangerous shooting area.

      The 3rd goal by the Pens was a good example. Dubnyk saw Kunitz was left open so when Letang got the puck, he was anticipating a pass to his left and a one timer coming from Kunitz, so he was moving to his left and Letang caught him cheating and shot to his right.

      Playing for LA, there is hardly any opponent left open in dangerous shooting area.

  • Zarny

    In general, I like what MacT has done.

    The well was poisoned with Dubnyk. He’s been groomed as the #1 G for years and failed. You can’t keep him around as a backup or tandem because that baggage of failure would always haunt him in Edm.

    And since Bryz hasn’t played very well either MacT needed to make a move. Dubnyk for Hendricks is simply all that was available right now and you have to make that move before you can bring in Scrivens.

    At least you can’t say MacT dithers like Tambo.

  • Phuryous George

    I didn’t read all the comments, so not sure if anyone covered it already, but….

    Good for MACT. Maybe we can call it karma for the freshman hazing he got at the draft, and the BS he was looking at for being a first year GM.

  • Rick Stroppel

    Mark Spector is like any other TO sports media homer, on one hand he’ll go out and day Hemsky and Gagner arent worth anything more then a high draft pick and the expected return for a guy like Kadri will net the Leafs a Lindros type package. I dont take anything into effect and seriously about what anyone outside of Dreger and McKenzie have to say regarding rumors. Hemsky is a proven playoff performer and will be a welcome rental for a team like Boston.

  • Rick Stroppel

    I am pleased to see MacT doing something…….a breathe of fresh air after Tambo/ Klowe and their frustrating non actions.
    Even the pseudo GMs on this board should be happy with this latest move.

  • Serious Gord

    What would be the opposite of bold?

    Yea I think that Mac T is struggling trying to appease the crowd…….it can’t be easy but these trades remind me of someone shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic.

    Hope I’m wrong.

  • Bryzarro World

    When considering the comments made regarding the Oilers over valuing their players, one must first consider the source. Spector has no clue and is classically anti Oiler. While he may, on occasion, attempt to mask his personal bias, it is clearly evident for all to see.

  • Time Travelling Sean

    What’s so wrong with Hendricks? Gordon had no offense either and we’re all happy to have him.

    That Garbutt idiot from Dallas scores at the same clip as Hendricks. Might be nice to have a player like that.

  • XL Lebowski

    How plugged in is Spector? He seems really hit and miss when it comes to reporting what he’s hearing.

    As far as overvaluing players, we clearly overvalued Gagner when we gave him that 4.8 million per year contract. He doesn’t bring much to the table besides decent secondary scoring and even then, he’s inconsistent.

  • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

    Shuffling deck chairs on he Titanic…….but change is good.

    Before today’s moves MacT needed to make 10 changes minimum…….after today’s moves MacT needs to make 10 changes minimum.