Tuesday, July 24, 2012

With Nash gone, do the Blue Jackets target the Oilers and Ales Hemsky?

One by one, the high ticket dominoes are starting to fall across the NHL. With the over hyped Rick Nash finally found his way into a Rangers jersey on Monday afternoon, it leaves Alex Semin and Shane Doan as the two big name forwards to find new homes. Leaving one to wonder if the Edmonton Oilers now become that "other" option for those teams still looking to upgrade...especially in Columbus.

While the Oilers do have an abundance of forwards and would surely entertain moving Ales Hemsky and his two year, $5 million contract, it is not as though they have an instant replacements ready to step in and contribute in all situations.

Moving Hemsky would make life easier as far as the pecking order goes on the right side, with Jordan Eberle and Nail Yakupov being option one and two. It would put major pressure on the two youngsters to take on responsibilities that they are frankly, not ready for at the NHL level. I have repeatedly stated I would rather they keep Ales around for now and move him down the road but moving the talented Czech winger is something Steve Tambellini may seriously look at.

The two teams that would likely have the most interest in Hemsky would be the Columbus Blue Jackets and Phoenix Coyotes. Both clubs need help upfront, especially if Doan jumps ship in the desert, and both tend to see Hemmer at his very best against their respective clubs. Though the loss of Nash leaves the Blue Jackets with a void upfront, acquiring Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixon and a first round pick from New York Rangers, wasn't exactly a terrible return.

Sure it was a deal that General Manger Scott Howson could have made months ago but he was in a no win situation. If he makes the deal than, people would have moaned that he "should have held out for more". Instead, he waited and made the trade now...and the cries of "that's all he got" start coming out. Since he was allowed to deal with only a handful of teams, the GM's hands were ultimately tied and more importantly, could or should they really have expected a better return?

Nash has the ability to be one of the game's elite power forwards but has only cracked the 70 point barrier once in his career and has a cap hit of  $7.8 million for the next six years. So I ask the question again. How exactly was this a bad deal? Howson should be applauded for trying to get more but needs to be given credit for recognizing that wasn't in the cards and pulling the trigger on the best offer he had.

With the situation being what it is in Columbus, it would be shocking if the former Oilers assistant General Manager didn't give his old club a shout about the availability of Mr. Hemsky..With the additions of Dubinsky and Anisimov, the Blue Jackets are suddenly set down the middle with the likes of Derick Brassard and Ryan Johansen already in the mix. Add R.J. Umberger into the equation, who like their two newest acquisitions, has played all three forward positions and they have a ton of depth at centre. Unfortunately, that isn't the case on the wings.

The Jackets have nothing resembling a highly skilled  impact winger on their roster, which would make Hemsky a perfect fit. Oilers Now host Bob Stauffer, hinted during Monday's show that Edmonton would probably have interest in Erixon but in my mind, any deal involving Hemsky would have to help improve the club in the present. Perhaps a deal revolving around Umberger would make sense for both sides.

If the plan is to give Sam Gagner another season to prove his worth, Tambellini has no choice but to add size inside the top six and the former sixteenth overall selection would do exactly that. He is a five time twenty goal man that at 6'2" and 220 pounds would make a life a little easier for the young Oiler forwards. While he is not a banger by any stretch, his 102 hits would have been good enough for third among Edmonton forwards in 2011-2012 and his presence alone would allow head coach Ralph Krueger options within in his top six.

They could insert Umberger on the left side with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle as needed insulation for the two kids and play Taylor Hall with Gagner and Yakupov. Or they could go back to a top line of Hall - Nugent-Hopkins - Eberle and run with a second unit of Umberger - Gagner -Yakupov. Hence adding a veteran presence with size inside the top six and keeping both Shawn Horcoff and Ryan Smyth out of those roles...which is something that must occur in 2012-2013.

In my opinion, that would leave the perfect scenario for Magnus Paajarvi and Teemu Hartikainen to slide in alongside the Oilers captain on the third line but we know that won't happen. You would think one of the two would round out the top nine playing with Horcoff and Smyth but it wouldn't shock me in the least, to see one of Ryan Jones or Ben Eager get a shot at that role. Far from ideal in my mind but an expected problem when the organization decided to keep the fan favourite around for another go around.

The one down side to Umberger, is his contract. He has a healthy cap hit at $4.6 million for the next five years and hence why moving a talent like Hemsky, injury history and all, would mean Edmonton would need more than just the thirty year old American in return.While not a crippling contract, it is something that still needs to be considered before making such a move.

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