Analyzing Trade Rumors: The Kings should trade for Ales Hemsky
We've covered some of the bigger names on the trade market that have been linked to the Kings in various media outlets. Thus far, we haven't really found a fit.
Defenseman Andrew MacDonald has some very poor underlying numbers and LA should stay away. Sam Gagner provides some offensive creativity but doesn't seem to be a fit with the Kings organizational philosophy. Ryan Callahan would be a great depth player but comes with a prohibitively hefty contract. Thomas Vanek would provide goal scoring, but the cost will likely be too high for what may be a very short term solution.
Let's move our attention now to a lower profile player who could potentially provide a lot of value for cheap.
Ales Hemsky has flown under the radar in his career in Edmonton, but has had a very productive career. He has the 8th most points in Edmonton Oilers history, including two 70+ point seasons. He has struggled to stay healthy over his career (thanks in large part to Robyn Regehr), but despite that he has been a very strong puck possession forward throughout.
The recent news on Hemsky is that he he has been moved over to the left side from his natural right wing position. This has fueled trade rumors and the Kings, who have a gaping hole at left wing, would seem to be a likely trade destination. Is Hemsky a viable trade target for LA?
LA's biggest need is offense. They currently sit 29th in goals per game. What kind of production would Hemsky be able to provide?
In 360 games between the 2005-06 and 2010-11 season, Ales Hemsky averaged nearly 1 point per game (.92 points per game to be exact). Over that span, that was good for 27th best in the NHL and ahead of luminaries such as Jonathan Toews, Rick Nash, Patrick Marleau and Anze Kopitar.
Over the last three seasons, Hemsky's production has plummeted as he's only been able to produce 0.5 points per game-- good for 148th in league over that span.
In looking into this recently, Oilers blogger Tyler Dellow had this to say:
Hemsky's decline in boxcars isn't entirely to do with a decline in his play - some of it has to do with ice time...the big change is in his PP TOI - he's dropped almost two minutes a night as the Oilers pushed those minutes to their younger players.
Dellow goes on to note that despite his lack of PP time, Hemsky's production at even strength has dropped 37%. So what happened? Interestingly, it appears that losing Dustin Penner had a big effect on Hemsky's even strength production.
Hemsky/ Penner WOWY 2007-2014
|Points per 60||Shots per 60|
|Hemsky w/ Penner||2.8||8.7|
|Hemsky w/o Penner||1.4||6.9|
Over the last 7 seasons, Hemsky was twice as productive when playing alongside Penner and also took two more shots on goal for every 60 minutes he was on-ice with Penner over that span. The dramatic difference can't easily be attributed to systemic changes for the Oilers or a change in Hemsky's usage in the years after the Penner trade. In the years in which Penner and Hemsky were both on the roster, the numbers were about the same: 1.5 points per 60 without Penner and 6.5 shots per 60 between 2007-2011.
This actually bodes well for the Kings if they were to acquire Hemsky. Dustin Penner was renowned for his puck possession numbers in his time with Edmonton. The Oilers were a bad possession team in those years, yet the Penner and Hemsky line was one of the few bright spots. When they were on ice together between 2007-11, the Oilers controlled 52.5% of all shot attempts. Without Hemsky and Penner on the ice the Oilers only controlled 45.6% of all attempts.
The Kings have no shortage of forwards that can drive play. It's not hard to imagine Hemsky being able to boost his point production playing alongside the likes of Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter.
As we've touched on many times before, the Kings seem to target forwards who have the ability to drive play. In this regard Hemsky more than fits the bill. Over the last 7 years, there has only been one season where Hemsky didn't have positive possession numbers relative to his teammates.
Additionally, over the last 7 years when Hemsky has been on the ice, the Oilers have controlled 49.2% of all shots. Without Hemsky over that span, that number drops to 45.1%.
Historically, Hemsky has been an excellent possession player but he had a rough year in that regard a season ago. How is he doing so far this season?
Among forwards who've received the toughest minutes* this season, Hemsky is 4th best in the NHL in possession numbers relative to his teammates.
Before the Olympic break, Hemsky's trade value seemed to be very low. He even started the Olympic tournament far down the Czech depth chart, but ended up having a stellar tournament which may have some rejuvenated some interest in him.
There is little doubt that he will be dealt at the deadline (even from Hemsky himself). His contract is expiring at the end of the year. He comes with a hefty cap hit of $5M which likely drives down some of his value. In order for the Kings to make room for him, they would need to free up $2.07M in cap space according to Cap Geek, which means that a roster player may need to be involved in the deal.
Whatever the case may be, it's hard to imagine the cost of acquiring Hemsky being prohibitive at this point and the Kings should absolutely look to acquire him.
LA has struggled to find solutions at left wing this season. In recent games, Jordan Nolan and Tanner Pearson have been alternating games on the left side of Mike Richards and Tanner Pearson and have been ineffective. Hemsky could slot in there immediately, which would go a long way toward settling down the Kings line-up which has been in-flux all season long.
(* Less than 45% offensive zone starts, greater than 0.5 corsi rel QoC)