Deadline Debate: Gambling on Hemsky?

One of the names that has been in the air vis-a-vis the trade deadline for literally weeks is that of Edmonton Oilers winger Ales Hemsky. The Oilers have been out of the playoff race for a long time and, with a stable of young forwards trying to learn on the job in Edmonton, it has seemed clear for some time that Hemsky doesn’t fit into the team’s long-term plans there. At age 28, Hemsky will become an unrestricted free agent July 1. He is blessed with jaw-dropping talent and is one of the very few players on the market who is both a straight rental and could, in theory, pay immediate dividends on a team’s power play or playing with other skilled players.

The problem is that, well, he’s Ales Hemsky and that means he comes with more than a little baggage, including a stunning lack of durability and a questionable work ethic. Hemsky is one of those trade-deadline gambles who has the potential to make a general manager look like a genius or a bum. The upside of Hemsky is that his asking price is going to be fairly modest now that he has gone 16 straight games without a goal as of Tuesday morning and collected 10 assists during that period (he’s also minus-8 during that stretch). Hemsky wouldn’t require a roster player and would likely command a small collection of mid-round draft picks and/or a prospect.

In comparison, a player like Tuomo Ruutu would draw a higher price, and his status remains in limbo in Carolina. Ruutu is expected to discuss his contract with Carolina GM Jim Rutherford in the next day or so and isn’t expected to return to the lineup from injury until the second week of March.