Edmonton, AB - The circumstances needed to be right. Ales Hemsky wanted the term, dollars and role to line up for an agreement to be reached with the Oilers.
While General Manager Steve Tambellini didn't hide the fact that the Oilers had discussions with other clubs regarding No. 83's value on the market, a two-year, $10 million deal was reached late Friday to keep the 28-year-old in Edmonton.
"I'm really happy," Hemsky said as he addressed a horde of media at the club's headquarters at the city's downtown edge. "I've been here through a lot -- through ups and downs, and it would be tough to leave a place when you see it's changing, with a lot of guys coming up. Hopefully we can make a push for the playoffs and one day maybe even win the Cup.
"I didn't want to give up after 10 years, to leave and pack my bags."
"This is a significant move for us, obviously, leading up to the trade deadline and having a potential unrestricted free agent leave the organization," added General Manager Steve Tambellini. "A player such as Ales Hemsky who has elite skill, we all know that. People in this market have come to see some great things from Ales. He's had a couple injury-prone years that we feel are behind him. He's worked hard to get himself physically to a spot where he's never been.
"He's in the prime of his career. That, along with the fact that now Ales can see the level of skill that's coming in this organization and is here now."
While Hemsky had made it clear a week ago that he'd wanted a long-term deal to ensure security, both in his wallet and within his role in the squad's lineup, the parties eventually agreed on something that makes sense for both sides.
If the Oilers were to shell out a loaded contract with a longer term, extensions for Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall would have become much more difficult, given that their entry-level contracts expire after next season. In the case of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, he'll need to be re-upped before the 2014-15 campaign.
As some of the league's most dynamic and talented young stars, each will be given a considerable raise when the time comes.
"That was very important to us," Tambellini said, noting the importance of retaining some wiggle room around the salary cap. "We have an elite, skilled player in his prime that's going to be a big part of continuing to grow this hockey team.
"A player works every year to the point where he hopes he's played well enough that he can explore what's out there for him as far as free agency," he added. "You can see how many [players] now are thinking that this is a great place because they can see what's coming in this organization. And the players that are here believe in what we're trying to accomplish here. It means a lot. It means a lot to have a player like Ales who could command -- I don't know what he could command on the open market and neither does he, but the bottom line is that he chose to stay with the Oilers on a two-year deal that works for him and works for us."
As Tambellini explains, the need to get Hemsky's deal inked quickly was a vital component. The GM and player spoke at length after last night's game, getting closer and closer on dollar and term until the deal was reached.
With the contact now signed, the club's deadline plan has shifted.
"That was the main focus up until an hour ago (5:30pm) of what we needed to accomplish here, with the possibility of one of our most skilled players leaving the team," he said. "It changes maybe a little bit of the direction of what we may be looking at. [Monday is] going to be busy. I'm not sure how much or how little will be done, but I look forward to it. It should be exciting but I'm glad this piece is done today."
Hemsky's deal does not include a no-trade or no-move clause. And while the 6'0", 185-pound winger noted that, he's not concerned about it moving ahead. He's happy that he can move on, relax and continue on with the mindset that his best hockey is still on the horizon.
"I haven't had the season like I wanted and maybe I could have gone to free agency, but in the end I wanted to stay here and the numbers were pretty solid for me," he said. "I'm comfortable here. I've been here for a long time. Lately we've been playing really good, too, and I want to be part of it.