Hemsky, Penner trade bait?
Veteran Oilers forwards drawing interest from around league
Los Angeles Kings GM Dean Lombardi, absolutely looking for a top-six forward after taking a wild swing at Ilya Kovalchuk and fortunately striking out considering how little bang-for-the-buck the Devils are getting from Kovy in New Jersey, was likely watching Ales Hemsky and Dustin Penner as much as his own guys when he dropped by Rexall Place a few days ago.JEFF GROSS, GETTY IMAGES Edmonton Oilers Dustin Penner, left, and Ales Hemsky put the squeeze on the Ducks’ Saku Koivu at the Honda Center on Jan. 16 in Anaheim, Calif.
It’s no secret the Edmonton Oilers are sellers with the trade deadline three weeks away.
Would they deal Hemsky or Penner, who both become unrestricted free agents in July 2012? Oilers GM Steve Tambellini steadfastly won’t talk about any single player. But why wouldn’t they be in play? There are precious few untouchables on a 30thplace team. Start with Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi. Throw in Ryan Whitney on defence, maybe rookie blue-liner Jeff Petry, too, who looks like a keeper. Shawn Horcoff’s contract (three years after this at a $5.5-million cap hit) makes him untradeable, same with goalie Nikolai Khabibulin (two more years at $3.75 million for a 38-year-old). Maybe Tom Gilbert’s as well (three more years at a $4-million cap hit). They likely wouldn’t want to move an improving and abrasive Theo Peckham because other teams are noticing the strides he’s made, or Devan Dubnyk in net because they see Dubnyk as a No. 1 in fairly short order. He’s going to get more starts over the last 30 instead of one out of every three or so.
“Devan’s really stepped up (with management) and in his teammates’ minds,” said Tambellini.
But everybody else could be had. Teams are sniffing around Ladislav Smid because they think he might need a change of scenery and everybody’s looking for defenders. Winger Linus Omark, who might not be able to crack the top six here with Eberle returning, is getting considerable interest. Would the Oilers be interested in Nashville defenceman Jonathan Blum, their 2007 first-rounder, for Omark? Maybe. The Predators are deep on blue-liners.
“I think Omark is better than (Jiri) Hudler,’ said one NHL pro scout.
They’ve got some UFA’s like Jim Vandermeer on defence. Maybe a team would take him as a No. 7, although until Friday’s first fight of the season with Cam Janssen, scouts have wondered where his abrasiveness has gone. And Jason Strudwick might be useful as an insurance blueliner. Presumably they tried to move disturber Zack Stortini before putting him on waivers. Ryan Jones is also an UFA, but he’s a valuable third/ fourth-liner. It’s no secret the Oilers were offering just about everybody to get a shot at big Portland Winterhawks centre Ryan Johansen, the second-best junior to Kings prospect Brayden Schenn on Canada’s world team this past Christmas. Hemsky’s name came up, then.
“It wasn’t a shot in the dark. But there was no wavering from teams who wanted to keep the pick in a deep draft,” said Tambellini, who watched Columbus pick him fourth.
If the Oilers are doing their due diligence, they’re asking the agents for Hemsky and Penner if they want to be part of the rebuild while in the prime of their careers, both in their late 20s? Whichever one drags his feet and says ‘I’ll have to think about it,’ you would think that player would be on the trade block. If not now, then at the draft because Tambellini certainly would like to get another first-round draft pick.
“We’ve talked about the abilities of players, but we also need to know if (older) players have a desire to be an Oiler as we stick to our game plan (rebuilding),” said Tambellini, who doesn’t want either Hemsky or Penner going into their last year with UFA status staring the team in the face. They don’t want either guy walking away for free. And you seldom get full value when you trade a player at the deadline in the final season of his long-term contract. You get quantity but not quality. So, this is crunch time for the Oilers.
They can decide to keep both longterm if both are amenable to signing on, again. Personally, I’d try to lock up Hemsky, who is their answer to the Colorado Avalanche’s Milan Hejduk, for another five years at $5.25 million a season (he makes a $4.1-million cap hit now). Penner isn’t a world-class player like Hemsky who would have been on the Czechs Olympic squad in 2010 if he hadn’t t had shoulder surgery. But he’s a 2530 goal-scorer and when he’s motivated (wouldn’t it be nice if he had the same fire as Johan Franzen?) he’s very tough to handle. I would offer him three years.
The Oilers would certainly get more for Hemsky. Sources say the Predators are hot to trot, as well, and if they were willing to give up Canadian national junior team captain/defenceman Ryan Ellis and a first-rounder, the Oilers should listen. If the Kings were interested, I’d ask for a first-round draft pick and Wayne Simmonds, a diamond in the rough forward even if he’s having a rough season. Heck, I’d see if they want to deal Jarret Stoll back for his faceoff ability, if nothing else. The Oilers could use a defenceman, but the early reports are lukewarm on Eberle’s former Regina Pats teammate defenceman Colten Teubert, a Kings first-round pick in 2008 who’s on the Kings’ American Hockey League farm club.
He’s aggressive but has lots to learn.
“He gets lost when the puck’s being cycled,” said one longtime Western Conference observer.
The Kings were sniffing around Brad Richards after last season, then got after Kovalchuk, but he was too rich for their blood. They’ve got four forwards for the top two lines — Ryan Smyth, Anze Kopitar, ◗ Dustin Brown and Justin Williams — but they definitely could use some speed there which would seem to militate against Penner. Kopitar needs a shooter on his winger, however. Hemsky is a playmaker, but he backs people off with his moves. “We go through the teams, just as you (media) do. You put checks beside players who might be available,” said Lombardi.