As one of the targeted “sellers” at this year’s trade deadline, the Oilers sure haven’t been very good sports about the whole thing. With the contract extension handed out to Ales Hemsky on Friday and the constant assurances that Ryan Smyth will remain in Edmonton, two of the team’s veteran chips up front have been pretty much pulled off the table. Same goes for big defenceman Andy Sutton, who got his own extension with the franchise recently.
To be fair, there’s no mandate that the Oilers have to be super-active, just because the team is dead in the water this season. It’s easy to see where the future lies in terms of offence – Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle are all strong scorers. Big things are expected from Jeff Petry on the blue-line, but many changes need to be made back there otherwise if this team is going to the playoffs in the next couple years. Goaltending is a work in progress.
The danger for GM Steve Tambellini comes in avoiding the same mistakes his predecessor, current president Kevin Lowe, made while in office. That is, falling in love with your own players and overpaying them. Shawn Horcoff is still the textbook example.
Hemsky’s deal is dangerous in several ways. Most immediately, the talented but fragile Czech could have fetched a decent return on the open market, particularly in the form of a defenceman. Would L.A. have offered Jack Johnson before the Kings shipped him to Columbus for Jeff Carter? What would Pittsburgh have given up? Maybe a top prospect such as Joe Morrow or Scott Harrington.
The other danger is more long-term. And yes, the Hemsky extension only runs two years, but that second year is when Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi need new pacts. Hall and Eberle will both command at least the $5 million per that Hemsky got. With Horcoff still on the books at the time (as well as Tom Gilbert’s $4 million stipend), that’s a lot of cap space on a small group.