Over the summer, when Dirk ranked potential scoring forwards the Predators could seek in trade, Ales Hemsky's name came to the top. In 47 games last season, Hemsky's 5-on-5 scoring rate was superstar quality, higher than Anze Kopitar's, higher than Alex Semin's, higher than that of each of Anaheim's big three.
Times are different, though, you say. Nashville has the 12th ranked offense in the NHL and Hemsky is struggling in Edmonton.
But how are the Predators scoring? 5-on-5, the shutdown line--i.e. the line facing the toughest competition--centered by Mike Fisher, leads the way. On the man advantage, a trio of Americans--David Legwand, Colin Wilson, and Craig Smith--have combined to make the Predators' power play the third-best in hockey.
What happens in the playoffs, however, when Kostitsyn/Fisher/Erat consistently face tougher top lines and fewer penalties make special teams a moot point? The Predators risk a Vancouver-series situation, in which it takes incredible individual offensive effort to break the game open. Someone who can go coast to coast like butter toast. Someone like Ales Hemsky.
What Ales Hemsky brings to the Predators
He's like a much better Martin Erat with a very checkered injury history. Hemsky is deceptively fast with unbelievable hands. He dangles and pases with the best of them. Hemsky has been knocked for not shooting enough, but when healthy, is a reliable 20-goal scorer. If traded to Nashville, Hemsky would instantly become the most talented offensive player on the team and it's not even close. His speed and puck handling would also mean less dump-and-dive offense and a sorely needed puck possession game.
What happened to his stats?
Many Preds fans might balk at Hemsky's 4 goals, 18 assists and -15 this year. However, Hemsky has been knocked off Edmonton's top scoring line this year, made to play a shutdown role with Shawn Horcoff. He's acquitted himself fairly well in the role. But with Nashville's shutdown unit already well defined, Hemsky could focus on his offensive game, likely partnered with two of Smith/Legwand/Wilson. Combined with the fact he's been pretty unlucky in the goal scoring department (5.9% shooting vs. 11.4% for his career), Hemsky could be a something close to a point-per-game player down the stretch for the Preds.
The Contract Situation
Hemsky makes $5 million this season (cap hit: $4.1M) and is a Unrestricted Free Agent at the season's end. Since he's a guy I could see the Predators targeting in free agency anyway, it makes sense to get the jump on negotiations too.
What it might cost
The Oilers are a fit as trading partners because they desperately need defense prospects already a few years into their development. Think Jon Blum+a high conditional pick.
Hemsky is a constant injury risk, yes, but it's a high risk-high reward move. I don't think any Zach Parises are getting moved before February 27th. And at his best (healthiest), Hemsky is a top-3 winger. His injury history will also make him available at a discount, should the Preds want to resign him.