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THE TEAM TODAY: The Rumour Mill

by Ryan Dittrick / Edmonton Oilers


Sherwood Park, AB - While one Oiler's name has been crossed off as a possible deadline acquisition, others remain in limbo as Feb. 27 approaches. Andy Sutton can relax. Ales Hemsky and Ryan Smyth? Not so much.

Hemsky's six-year, $24.6 million deal expires at the end of the season, penciling the 28-year-old as an impending unrestricted free agent. With 13 days and six games until that telling day in Winnipeg, the Oilers' GM insists discussion between the club and No. 83's agent as been ongoing.

"We've spoken with Ales' agent for quite some time," Tambellini said. "We spoke over the summer, we've had recent conversations and I would expect to have more up closer to the deadline. I'm not really here to discuss what we're talking about (Hemsky's place in the organization), but we've had good communication."

Hemsky, selected 13th overall by the Oilers in 2001, has spent his entire career in Edmonton – nine seasons, including his role as a vital cog in the club's miraculous run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2006, registering six goals and 17 points in his squad's 24 post-season games.

He may not always show it, but Hemsky's desire to remain an Oiler is as deep-seated as can be; passion, sure, and it requires a long-term commitment to keep rolling. No. 83 has made it clear that he wants security well into his 30s.

"I like it here," he said. "I've always liked it here. I have so many friends here and I love the guys in the locker room. I like the coaches and I like the city. In the end, it has to make sense for me, too.

For it to make sense, the winger needs assurance. It includes his role as one of the club's marquee players, as he has little interest in patrolling a spot on the third or fourth line.

"You want to know what kind of role you'll have," he explained. "It's up to [the coaches]. I'm happy, but it can always be better. A lot of guys are playing good, so I'm not complaining. It is what it is."


Hemsky wasn't the only one getting attention during the team's post-practice media swarm. Ryan Smyth, whose name has also popped up in recent trade rumours, also addressed the attending scribes.

"I haven't talked to [Tambellini] yet about anything," he said with subtle surprise. "But I came back for a reason and didn't expect to be in this situation at all. We're happy here and I'm excited to be an Oiler again."

Smyth, 35, requested a trade from the Kings during the summer and, in doing so, brought his no-move clause along with him to Edmonton. While it's something he said he might consider looking at, he wants to remain in orange and blue, keep true to his word and, above all else, win a Stanley Cup in Oil Country and nowhere else.

"[Tambellini is] going to do what's best for the hockey club for sure," he said. "I have that no-move clause in place for a reason and I'd have to assess it as that would come, but I don't think it would get to that. I don't know, though.

"I'd be going against my word coming out of LA. We're here as a family and I'm here as an Edmonton Oiler."

Like Hemsky, Smyth, too, is slated to become an unrestricted free agent.

Tambellini, meanwhile, is going to listen to all options. While he said, bluntly, that he has no intentions to move Smyth (and Nikolai Khabibulin, while we're at it), things can change and the right listing can sprout up at any moment. As the GM describes, it's about managing current assets (and current success) with what lies ahead on the horizon.

"As a manager, you always have to have a feel for what's happening right now and what the team looks like, but you also have to have a plan in place for the organization," Tambellini said. "Things can change along the way in the next few years. We've got a lot of high-end, talented, skilled players that we're excited about and I know people are excited about and there will be issues [in signing them all]. When it gets to that point, they'll be hard decisions, but they're good problems. It means you're getting better.

"We're looking forward to the day when we have tough decisions to make."

When it comes to Ales Hemsky and Ryan Smyth, Tambellini already has some tough ones on his plate.

-- Ryan Dittrick, - Follow me on Twitter | @ryandittrick


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