Edmonton Oilers: Pieces in Play at NHL Trade Deadline

The Edmonton Oilers will be sellers at this year’s trade deadline, and the obvious question is this: Who are they willing to move? The obvious answer is Ales Hemsky, who is in the final year of a 6 year contract he signed back when Kevin Lowe was calling the shots. The contract, which gave Hemsky a cap hit of $4.1 million for 6 years, was considered a stroke of genius by Lowe. Times have changed in Oil Country though, and Hemsky will be on the move. His play as of late has looked uninspired and lacking of emotion. His numbers this season aren’t too flattering either, posting just 17 points in 35 games this season, or under 0.5 points per game. Regardless of that, his talent and game breaking ability will force some NHL General Manager to over pay thinking that with Hemsky his team is a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.

Hemsky isn’t the only name out there though. Ryan Smyth is also a UFA and could be dealt, though he would likely resign in Edmonton in the offseason anyway. With Ben Eager already on the roster, Darcy Hordichuk could be sold to the highest bidder. Averaging under 6 minutes/night and often a healthy scratch, his role with the team is very limited. He is also a free agent at the end of the year. With the Oilers already attempting to resign hulking defenceman Andy Sutton, the chances of him getting dealt are slim.

The name most Oilers fans are torn about is Sam Gagner. At just 22 years old he already has 332 NHL games under his belt. If the Oilers decide to put him on the market, he could fetch more than Ales Hemsky. Considering Kyle Turris, whose numbers across the board are inferior to Gagner’s, got a solid prospect (David Rundblad) and a 2nd round draft pick, Gagner’s value will surely be greater. The question is whether or not he fits with the Oilers long term plans. He is a restricted free agent at the end of the year, meaning the Edmonton Oilers have exclusive rights to resign him. How does Gagner fit in with the organization long term? That will be the question that determines his fate. He’s played both wing and center in his career. At center the Oilers have Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Shawn Horcoff and Eric Belanger as their top-3 for the next three years. Anton Lander will likely be the team’s full time #3 center once Belanger’s contract expires, leaving Horcoff and Nugent-Hopkins. Gagner’s talents aren’t worth using unless he is given 15 minutes/night at least.

On the wing, the Oilers are led by Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi. Curtis Hamilton, Tyler Pitlick and Teemu Hartikainen will all battle for top-6 minutes as well. Where do those two scenarios leave Gagner? The Oilers would be best served exploring all their options with him.

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