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What will 2011-12 have in store for Ales Hemsky?

Aug 10, 2011, 9:00 AM EDT

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Bruins Oilers Hockey AP

As it stands today, Ales Hemsky is the most productive player on the Edmonton Oilers. He’s not the most productive player the organization has ever seen and there are player(s) currently on the team who will most likely be more productive NHLers throughout their NHL careers. But today, there’s only one guy who is nearly a point-per-game player. Not Taylor Hall. Not Jordan Eberle. Not Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. It’s Ales Hemsky.

Since the lockout, Ales Hemsky has been one of the most productive offensive players in the NHL. He has racked up 331 points in 360 games since the rule changes allowed skill players more time and space. When he’s at his best, he’s a dazzling playmaker who has the ability to make his linemates shine. He’s had 40+ assist four times since the lockout—not bad considering he hasn’t exactly been playing with future Hall of Famers in Edmonton.

Where it gets interesting is that Hemsky is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2011-12 season. There were rumors that he was available for the right price at the trade deadline last year, but no team stepped up with the right package and the Oilers were in no rush to trade him for a mediocre deal. But things could be different this year.

With the Oilers likely to struggle again in Year 3 of their rebuild, Hemsky’s greatest worth to the organization may be his trade value as opposed to his power play value. He’s scheduled to make $5 million in the final year of his 6-year deal. At the deadline, the more important number may be $4.1 million—as in his cap hit. Allan Mitchell of Lowetide.com has a little give-and-take regarding the Oilers and Hemsky:

Will they trade him? Yes. He’ll go at the deadline unless signed.

Why? The heart of the cluster is many years younger. It’s the same reason Ryan Smyth won’t hang around unless he’s willing to take a discount. Hall is the heart of this club, not Smyth and not Hemsky.

Would you trade him? No. I’d keep Hemsky as the “Daniel Alfredsson” of the group. But the Oilers have never really thought that way. The Oiler way dating back to Gretzky was trading them off before they cost too much. Even with his injury history I’d sign Hemsky long term and send Kevin Prendergast a thankyou card. Helluva draft pick, an absolute killer.”

He’s among the league’s best right wingers; on a team that doesn’t have many of the league’s best anything.

Of course, mentioning Hemsky without his injuries would be a little like talking about Tom Cruise without the crazy. He’s fine except for one small issue—but that one thing can have a huge impact. Hemsky’s point-per-game numbers are fantastic and stack up well against the elite wingers around the NHL. Unfortunately, his gross point totals are nowhere near the upper echelon players because of his extended periods on injured reserve. His 42 points in 47 games was good enough for second best on the Oilers last season—but he still only scored 42 points and still only played in 47 games. In fact, he’s missed 95 games over the last two seasons and has only averaged 56 games per season over the last five years. Sure, he scores when he’s on the ice—he just isn’t on the ice very often.

This season has all the makings of a rollercoaster ride for the 27-year-old former 1st round pick. If he can avoid the injury bug for the first time in years, he has the talent to put up some serious numbers on the score sheet. If he produces, Oilers GM Steve Tambellini will have plenty of team inquiring about the talented Czech’s services. Then again, if he can stay on the ice—isn’t that exactly the type of player that the Oilers would want to help lead their core of talented prospects?

After all, everyone knows a NHL player is most dangerous during a contract year.

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