The Edmonton Oilers are among the handful of teams considered sellers leading up to the March 5 trade deadline. Right winger Ales Hemsky and defenseman Nick Schultz are among the Oilers expected to be shopped once the Olympic trade freeze lifts Feb. 23.
Hemsky is no stranger to rumors, but he’s an unrestricted free agent this summer earning $5 million this season and isn’t expected to be re-signed. Schultz, earning $3.6 million, is also a pending UFA.
Oilers analyst Bob Stauffer claims the Montreal Canadiens and Pittsburgh Penguins could be interested in Hemsky. Stauffer also commented on a proposed deal with Hemsky going to the Phoenix Coyotes for prospect Henrik Samuelsson. While doubting the Coyotes would part with Samuelsson, the Edmonton Journal’s Jonathan Willis believes if the Oilers agreed to pick up half of Hemsky’s remaining salary it could make the 30-year-old winger attractive to teams with financial issues, like Phoenix.
Given the UFA status of Hemsky and Schultz, Willis considers it worthwhile for the Oilers to pick up half their remaining salaries to enhance their trade value. Regarding a return for Hemsky, Willis suggests Penguins defenseman Simon Despres or Canadiens winger Rene Bourque would best suit the Oilers needs, but feels the best they’ll get is draft picks.
The Los Angeles Kings seek scoring depth and were linked to Sam Gagner before the Olympic break. They were rumored to be offering up Kyle Clifford as part of the return. The Kings are reportedly no longer interested in Gagner, but maybe they’ll have interest in Hemsky if the Oilers eat part of his salary.
If Henrik Zetterberg undergoes season-ending back surgery, the Detroit Red Wings could give Hemsky consideration as a playoff rental. He could also interest Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray, who’s actively seeking a top-six forward.
Stauffer claims the San Jose Sharks were scouting the Oilers leading up to the Olympic trade freeze. Willis speculates Hemsky or Schultz could be of interest to them.
Schultz could attract attention from the Boston Bruins, who are in the market for a solid defensive blueliner with a left-handed shot. The Washington Capitals and Colorado Avalanche could also use an experienced stay-at-home defender.
Sports Illustrated’s Allan Muir noted the Kings’ interest in Gagner has cooled, suggesting it could open the door for the Nashville Predators, rumored to be interested in the 24-year-old center. Muir notes Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis played with Oilers winger Taylor Hall during their junior days with the Windsor Spitfires, but believes the Oilers would prefer a more defensively responsible blueliner.
Gagner was also linked in the rumor mill to the Chicago Blackhawks and Toronto Maple Leafs. The Blackhawks, however, recently acquired center Peter Regin, along with Pierre-Marc Bouchard, who can play center as well as the wing, from the New York Islanders. The Leafs appear content with centers Tyler Bozak and Nazem Kadri, plus they’re expecting center Dave Bolland to return from injury following the Olympics.
If the Oilers agreed to pick up part of Gagner’s contract, it would certainly enhance his trade value. Unlike Hemsky and Schultz, however, he’s signed through 2015-16 at an annual cap hit of $4.8 million. The Oilers could be reluctant to make that move.
Rumor Roundup appears weekdays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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