There aren’t a lot of players in the NHL I enjoy watching more than Ales Hemsky. He’s a sublime talent who can do magic things with the puck, and as he showed following his trade to Ottawa he still has plenty left in the tank. He was a good soldier in Edmonton – he accepted the third line role in 2013-14 and did pretty well in it – and I have no idea what game the people who think he’s soft were watching.
That doesn’t mean he’s going to come back to Edmonton, or even that it’s a good idea in theory.
Bruce Garrioch, who reported that talks between Hemsky and Ottawa had broken off, had this to say about the player’s situation:
[Hemsky] was believed to be looking for a deal in excess of $5.5 million per-season from the club. Sources say the Senators were not prepared to make that kind of offer and there was also concerns he’s determined to test the market… A source said part of Hemsky’s motivation for moving may be the fact he has played 672 career games since 2002 in Canada. He may want a chance to play in a U.S market with less attention. Hemsky also enjoyed success with Spezza and unless the Senators can’t get a trade that fits it’s expected that the captain won’t be back next season.
There are three things there that make Hemsky-to-Edmonton unlikely:
- Money. I’m skeptical of the number Garrioch cites, particularly without knowing where the information if coming from, and I’d be surprised if that’s what Hemsky ends up signing for. Even so, his performance in Ottawa has raised his likely price point.
- Playing in Canada. Again, we’ve got one source here, but after spending most of the last eight seasons enduring the scrutiny that comes with playing for a terrible team in a hockey-mad market it wouldn’t be a surprise if Hemsky wanted to go somewhere a little more tolerant.
- A top centre. In Ottawa, Hemsky had great success with Jason Spezza. In Edmonton, he played next to Boyd Gordon. With Jordan Eberle and Nail Yakupov at right wing for the Oilers, Hemsky’s not likely to get the kind of minutes and linemates he can really excel with.
Keeping Hemsky was something that wouldn’t have hurt the Oilers – he’s an actual useful NHL player on a team desperately short of them. But now that he isn’t Edmonton property, the Oilers would have to make the effort to go out and acquire him. The simple fact is they have bigger items on the wish list.
Hemsky, for starters, doesn’t play centre. While I’m not as bullish on the idea that every good NHL team needs to be brimming with fantastic centres (Chicago’s championship depth chart in 2012-13 includes the phenomenal Toews and then a steep, steep drop-off to Michal Handzus in the No. 2 slot) the Oilers could use some real help at the position, and Hemsky doesn’t bring that.
Hemsky also doesn’t bring size. Again, I tend to be more skeptical of the need for size than others – I think a team needs to be able to do all sorts of things, and size is less important than ability – the Oilers look to me like a team that would benefit from some bigger players. Hemsky doesn’t help there.
The Oilers have finite resources, and their needs are two-way centres, good defenceman and two-way wingers (with ideally a bit of size being added in all three cases). I’m all for three scoring lines and offensive creativity throughout the lineup on any team but the dollars and the effort needed to add Hemsky could be more profitably focused elsewhere.
Hemsky was an awfully good, and often underappreciated player, and he had a great run in Edmonton. But it’s time to let him go.
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