After a great start to the season, the Edmonton Oilers have plummeted back down to earth in a big way. They sit near the bottom of the Western Conference standings and, as a result, trade rumors are swirling around a couple of their under-performing forwards.
Sam Gagner has been linked to a number of different teams in trade talks since back in November, according to Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal. He had a poor start to the season and even though he’s picked up his play recently, he’s still expendable with centers Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Shawn Horcoff in the mix.
Both Matheson and Pierre Lebrun of ESPN have also linked Ales Hemsky to a couple of teams. Hemsky has had a mediocre season and is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, so he should be considered serious trade bait if the Oilers don’t have him in their plans for the future.
Only time will tell if there is any merit to these rumors. However, there are certainly some teams out there that could use the services for both Gagner and Hemsky.
Let’s take a look at seven teams that would be most likely to make a play for either, or possibly both, of these two players.
Let’s begin with the most obvious team.
The Kings have the least amount of goals in the entire NHL, so it’s no secret that they could use some help up front. Even though Hemsky and Gagner are more of the play-making types, they could set up the likes of Justin Williams, Simon Gagne, Drew Doughty and former Oiler Dustin Penner (when he returns from his pancake injury).
All of those players have struggled to put the puck in the net this season and Hemsky, in particular, could get them the puck in a prime scoring position.
The Kings are also one of the two teams that both Matheson and Lebrun linked Hemsky to in their columns that I mentioned in the opening slide, so it seems like this could be more than just a case of linking an offensive threat to a team that’s struggling offensively.
Finally, it’s important to think about the history of these two teams when it comes to trades. They’ve hooked up twice in the last year on both the Dustin Penner trade and the Ryan Smyth trade, so clearly General Managers Dean Lombardi and Steve Tambellini are comfortable doing business with each other.
Matheson and Lebrun also linked Hemsky to the Detroit Red Wings. Apparently GM Ken Holland thinks highly of him and would like to add some more depth upfront.
It looks the Wings already have plenty of capable forwards, but who am I to argue with the most successful franchise in the last 20 years?
Besides, if the Wings can somehow squeeze either Gagner or Hemsky under the salary cap by the trade deadline, it could make them a serious Stanley Cup contender this year (if they aren't one already).
After a hot start to the season, the Stars have come back to the rest of the pack and are now fighting for their playoff lives.
The reason they got off to such a strong start was because they received offense from unexpected sources like Radek Dvorak and Eric Nystrom. Since those two players have come back to earth, so has the rest of the team.
Clearly Dallas needs to add some depth upfront or else they’re going to be on the outside looking in when the playoffs roll around. Hemsky and Gagner would be a perfect fit because of this.
The Stars also have plenty of room under the salary cap to acquire the two Oilers without giving up many significant roster players in return. It’s just a matter of whether or not new owner Tom Gagliardi is willing to spend the money.
If he is, the Stars could finally have another scoring line to compliment the likes of Jamie Benn, Loui Eriksson and Mike Ribeiro.
It might not seem like the Blackhawks need any more offense. After all, they’re currently fifth in NHL in goal-scoring.
However, they’ve just lost Patrick Sharp for up to a month, and after their four-headed monster of Sharp, Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, their next highest point0getter is the underwhelming Viktor Stalberg.
Needless to say, they could use some more depth.
The Hawks have of a number of good prospects that could go the other way in a possible trade scenario with Edmonton. Of course, the Oilers would also have to take an under-performing player that has a decent salary off the Blackhawks’ hands in order to free up the cap space, but if they’re willing, either Gagner or Hemsky could be headed to Chicago sometime soon.
We're now moving to the Eastern Conference where the Florida Panthers continue to lead their division, surprising everyone in the process.
The Panthers are a team with a solid group of defensemen and a bunch of forwards that work hard and forecheck aggressively.
However, there are only six teams in the entire NHL that have scored fewer goals than them, so they have to address this issue if they want to hold off the Washington Capitals down the stretch and capture the Southeast division title.
Both Hemsky and Gagner could create another scoring line for the Panthers. Right now, three of their top six-point producers are defensemen. A player like Hemsky could also help out Florida’s surprisingly hot snipers, Kris Versteeg and Tomas Fleischmann, stay hot for the remainder of the season.
Florida has the cap space to afford Hemsky as well, so they should do everything possible to acquire the 28-year-old to secure a playoff spot and hopefully gain some desperately needed new fans in the process.
It might surprise you to see the Penguins on this list because they have such a star-studded roster that shouldn’t require any more offense.
However, Sidney Crosby is injured and he could be out for a very long time, as is Jordan Staal.
At the very least, Sam Gagner could be a nice insurance policy, and if Crosby’s concussion symptoms don’t disappear anytime soon, they may as well go after Hemsky too.
In short, the Penguins need to protect themselves against bad luck in order to hold onto a playoff spot because their luck has been about as bad as it can get so far in the 2011-12 season.
The Sabres are a lot like the Los Angeles Kings of the Eastern Conference.
They bolstered their roster in the offseason with the hopes of becoming a legitimate Stanley Cup contender, but so far they have the second fewest goals of all the Eastern Conference teams and are 11th in the standings.
If they want to avoid the disaster of missing the playoffs, they need to add the offensive play-making abilities of Hemsky and possibly Gagner as well.
Buffalo has plenty of players that are not producing nearly enough for what their salaries dictate, and they’d need to clear some cap space to make a trade work, so the Oilers would have to be willing to take on one of those under-performing players.
However, if the Sabres can sweeten the pot with some prospects or maybe one of their many young defensemen, it would make perfect sense for either Hemsky or Gagner to head east.
Where do you think Hemsky and/or Gagner will end up?