When people talk about Ales Hemsky in an Edmonton Oilers uniform, it seems like he’s been around forever. Usually grouped in with other Oiler veterans like Shawn Horcoff or Ryan Smyth, it’s hard to remember the talented Czech winger is not even thirty years old yet, and significantly younger than his esteemed colleagues.
Drafted 13th overall in 2001, Hemsky is in his 10th NHL season, and has already been in the league a decade at 29 years old. He has experienced a lot of ups and downs in his career with the Oilers. He’s lived the high of making it to game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals, ony to lose a heartbreaker to the Carolina Hurricanes. He’s also endured three straight losing seasons and picking first overall in the draft.
His career itself has seen its share of highs and lows, seemingly marred by injury throughout. When healthy he is as slick a puckhandler and as gifted a talent as there is in the league. However, due to injury and inconsistent play his numbers year to year do not exactly reflect that.
The other thing that has followed Ales Hemsky’s career has been yearly trade rumours, and this year is no different. Many expected he would not be in an Oilers uniform in 2013 and that he would have been traded at last year’s deadline. However, the Oilers surprised last year and signed him to a two year extension.
Once again he is in the middle of trade talk and rumoured to be on the market. As with last season the talk isn’t exactly surprising. One just has to look at the roster to know that the Oilers can’t exactly afford to keep Hemsky around at 5M per with all of the other young forwards they will need to sign in the upcoming few years.
There also isn’t a better time to peddle the skilled winger as he’s healthy and producing at the moment. He’s off to a good start in 2013 with 8 goals so far to lead the club. Offensively he’s been dynamic and a nightmare for defenders on the rush most nights, primarily playing alongside Sam Gagner. Defensively he’s been mediocre at best on a good night, but teams aren’t interested in him for his defence.
From the Oilers perspective he is their most marketable piece and one that could be expendable depending on the return. Right now he slots in as the number two right winger on the depth chart behind Jordan Eberle. The Oilers have recent number one overall pick Nail Yakupov at the same position playing on the third and fourth line currently, and playing about 12 minutes a night. They may look to give Yakupov a shot in an offensive role and he would be a logical choice to take over Hemsky’s place should he move on.
They also have a glut of skilled offensive forwards, very few of which play with much jam and grit in their top nine. Ideally they would be looking for a forward that could bring some size and play in their top six.
The Oilers also continue to be inconsistent on the blue line game to game and are always looking for an upgrade in that area.
Hemsky is the best chance they have to acquire an asset in either of those areas. Ryan Whitney, the former top defenceman that has fallen out of favour, has been a healthy scratch more often than not of late and could also draw some interest around the league.
Steve Tambellini could look to package the two and bring in a piece to help the Oilers be a tougher team to play against and ultimately give them a better chance at a playoff spot.
Either way it looks like they may not get a better opportunity to take advantage of Hemsky’s trade value and maximize their return.
I know it was also said last year around this time, but once again it appears a question of when and not if Ales Hemsky is dealt.
Carl covers the Edmonton Oilers for THW as well as providing additional prospect coverage. Follow him on twitter @carlTHW, connect on Facebook or contact at firstname.lastname@example.org for questions, comments or if you’re interested in him writing for you.