During last night’s hockey broadcast on TSN, their “experts panel” discussed a number of player situations in which teams are looking to extend impending UFAs before they hit the open market in July. Although players like Ryan Miller and Jarome Iginla headlined the discussion, Pierre Lebrun did discuss Ales Hemsky and the Ottawa Senators. (Note: you can watch the video here – the Hemsky portion begins approximately at the 0:45 mark.)
Lebrun: “Another top line right winger who is slated to be a UFA (on) July 1st of course is Ales Hemsky – who came over at the trade deadline to help out the Ottawa Senators. Now he has helped them, even though the Senators have struggled. Ottawa has seen enough of Ales Hemsky that in the very near future, they’re interested in reaching out to his representative to see if he’s interested in staying on and to talk about an extension. Obviously the money has to be right for the budget conscious Ottawa Senators, but right now, Bryan Murray would like to bring Ales Hemsky back for next season.”
Hemsky has obviously been productive playing on a line with Jason Spezza. In 10 games since his March 5th trade, he has two goals and eight points while average 2.3 shots per game. Although he’s been a minus +/- player, much of this is attributed to the fact that the Senators’ goaltenders have combined for a .886 save percentage when Hemsky’s been on the ice.
His puck possession numbers have been pretty boom or bust since joining the Senators, but that’s seems to be a regular occurrence for anyone who has played on a line with Spezza this season. On the whole however, he and Spezza have been positive possession players from a close score perspective, so that bodes well.
There is a sentiment within a sect of the fan base that believes if the Senators can retain Hemsky, it would necessitate keeping Spezza around, but I don’t know if I give that notion too much merit.
In a vacuum, the two have been productive together, but when looking at the broader picture, Hemsky’s presence does not really change the circumstances or risks associated with reaching an agreement with Spezza on a contract extension.
Spezza’s still a productive player, but the risks associated with his age, health (already has had two major back surgeries) and style of play may (read: should) be too substantial for this organization to flippantly hand Spezza the market value contract that he’ll assuredly be looking for.
As a mid-cap team with a strict internal budget, the Senators can ill afford to invest heavily in Spezza and allocate a substantial part of their budget on him.
But Hemsky does boast a high hockey IQ and the skating ability to suggest that he could have success regardless of who his center is, so assuming that the dollars and cents make sense, he’s certainly a player that the organization should make efforts to sign.
Whether he would want to remains to be seen, especially if he wants to parlay his recent production into an opportunity to test the open market for the first time and handpick the city and organization that he wants to play for. He may ultimately want to play somewhere warmer, or play for a contender, or play in a city that affords him a bit more anonymity and less scrutiny should things go south.
Again if the “budget conscious” Ottawa Senators are looking to ink Hemsky to a bargain barrel price, this summer’s open market may be too tempting to pass up for the player.