The NHL trade deadline is less than a month away with Edmonton Oilers right wing Ales Hemsky listed as one of the top commodities. His team continues to free fall in the standings as they likely prepare for yet another lottery pick. Hemsky has roughly $1.6 million remaining on his $4.1 million cap hit which makes him an affordable option for nearly every team craving that final piece.
Let’s look at the possible suitors for the crafty Czech.
New York RangersThe Rangers will certainly be buyers by the end of February with GM Glen Sather no stranger to the Oilers organization. In addition, the team should have the required pieces to acquire Hemsky as they still hold their first round pick in addition to a decent pipeline in the AHL, juniors and college ranks.
Hemsky’s skill set should be up to the same level as the team’s heavy hitters but he may not be the best fit under coach John Tortorella – who has benched one-dimensional players like Wojtek Wolski and Erik Christensen all season. Nevertheless, a highly-talented rental with Stanley Cup experience probably wouldn’t hurt the team’s chemistry moving forward, so consider the Big Apple an option.
Philadelphia FlyersDespite how well, or not well, the Flyers are performing they always are in the mix for the top forward available. Last season, GM Paul Holmgren took a gamble on Kris Versteeg, will he do the same with Hemsky? If Jaromir Jagr’s groin can’t hold up then acquiring a player like Hemsky would be a priority.
Jagr has been day-to-day since the Winter Classic, making the once-dominating top line of Claude Giroux and Scott Hartnell far less dangerous. Adding Hemsky into the mix would give them an immediate option should Jagr get hurt and also broaden their potential line combination. The Flyers still hold their first round pick and have a good deal of NHL-ready players currently on their roster. If interested, they should be able to meet the Oilers’ price.
Pittsburgh PenguinsDoes Evgeni Malkin need another winger? Chris Kunitz has worked out for most of the season but has been dubbed ‘Sid’s winger’ in the past. Should the captain actually be healthy enough for the stretch run, Malkin would benefit from having another skilled player by his side.
Adding an injury-prone winger to an already banged-up crop of players may not be the best idea but the Penguins severely lack depth up front. Despite winning through injuries for over the last 13 months, the team really needs more in order to advance in the playoffs. If they don’t get Hemsky, expect GM Ray Shero to find at least one more piece.
Washington CapitalsDo the Caps actually need Hemsky? No, but they should go after him. Tied for first place with the surprising Florida Panthers, Dale Hunter’s team would benefit from a top-six player the caliber of Hemsky.
Considering Mike Knuble is having his worst season in 10 years and both of their Russian superstars are well below their career averages, it would only make sense to try and compliment their strengths. Adding a creative player who can step up in big games would be a boon to the mediocre Capitals.
San Jose SharksThe Sharks continue to win despite their awful luck. Not only is Martin Havlat lost for another month but the team is dealing with Ryane Clowe missing playing time due to a facial injury. In short, the Sharks could use an upgrade over their current top-six, which featured Benn Ferreiro, Tommy Wingels and Andrew Desjardins among other less-talented players over the course of the season.
Their assets, however, remains somewhat depleted after sending an exorbitant package to the Minnesota Wild for Brent Burns at last year’s draft. They have some options in defensive prospects and a first round pick, but would be hard-pressed to outbid competing contenders if the asking price is a blue-chip prospect or more.
Detroit Red WingsCan there be a talented player mentioned without the Red Wings looking like the perfect option? Hemsky fits the mold as a player focused on puck-possession who also brings a ton of skill to the table. Just imagine Hemsky lining up next to Pavel Datsyuk and essentially playing keep away from the opponent’s defense all game.
The Red Wings have the parts to make a major trade, although they’ve been reluctant to do so over the years. Their last big push was the acquisition of Todd Bertuzzi from the Florida Panthers for Shawn Matthias and a conditional pick. GM Ken Holland may pull the trigger and sacrifice one of his talented youngsters in the AHL like Joakim Andersson or Landon Ferraro.
Chicago BlackhawksIn the first half of the season, the Blackhawks severely tapped into their depth. Forwards Jimmy Hayes, Andrew Shaw and Ben Smith have become mainstays in the lineup with Jeremy Morin and Brandon Pirri getting their respective cups of coffee. With the Blackhawks hoping to make another deep run into the playoffs, do they have enough skill to make it to the Finals?
There is no denying the elite talent up front with Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane yet only the latter has played all 50 games. Adding Hemsky would bring in another offensive weapon to an already-powerful lineup. Furthermore, it would give head coach Joel Quenneville the option of moving the aforementioned Kane back to center.
Los Angeles KingsThe Kings have thrived under new coach Darryl Sutter and his hard-nosed system. However, they still haven’t scored enough to fully contend with the Sharks in the Pacific Division.
Part of the problem is the current injury to Simon Gagne, which forces Jarrett Stoll to play right wing on the second line opposed to adding offense to the third line – which is currently comprised of Brad Richardson, Andrei Loktionov and Trevor Lewis. Adding Hemsky, and likely another winger, could give the Kings enough of an upgrade to be taken seriously. It would also alleviate the massive amount of pressure on All-Star starting goalie Jonathan Quick.
Photo credit: Getty Images