2 years is perfect for the Oilers. Eberle and Hall will get new contracts in the last year of Hemsky's new contract and RNH the following year. This gives us an idea of what we can and cant afford, and we re-assess the Hemsky situation then. Only question is if Hemsky likes it.
The Oilers will, one day soon, have to deal with the realities of Restricted Free Agency in the cap NHL. But at present, the club has a great deal of cap space heading into next season- $25MM, to be exact, according to CapGeek.
The double-standard has been touched on before in this thread, but to re-iterate: don't sign players, the Oilers are tanking intentionally for higher draft picks. Sign players, and the Oilers are inevitably making a large mistake and shouldn't bother.
But there's no large mistake here, not on a two-year deal; RFA status for Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall is one year away, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins two. Such a contract would in no way handcuff the Oilers. Prove it to me/us if you think otherwise. But it doesn't have any sort of logical underpinning.
Oh, and anyone who thinks that Hemsky's contract would somehow have bearing on those of the young guns should think again; 29 other teams will be the ones setting the price on Eberle, RNh and Hall- not Hemsky. In fact, if their respective agents do indeed choose to mention Hemmer's contract as a comparable, that's actually great news for the Oilers; if, during their highest-potential earning period, a player is only worth $5M per after 500 career games and 400 career points, there's no way any of the three kids can reasonably ask for that as RFAs.
I would argue that the downside of not signing Hemsky is larger than the risk of signing him:
Sign him, he sucks- Great, he's an Oiler for two years during a financially inconsequential period in franchise history. He can be waived, bought out, traded for table scraps... lots of options.
Sign him, he's good- Great, the Oilers have shown they're loyal to players they develop, and have the depth to compete for a playoff spot. $5M in today's NHL doesn't buy you very much up front in the UFA market (more on that later). The Oilers will be getting their money's worth.
Let him go, he sucks- Best case scenario for the Oilers. Or is it? Hemsky's job will have to be filled- probably in FA. Who is signing for less than $5M (again, see later) to play a critical top-six role? You end up with a player new to the organization and city, and most likely one signed to a 5-6 year contract. That is crippling if it doesn't work out.
Let him go, he's good- Worst case scenario for the Oilers. Edmonton's reputation as an 'exodus' city continues, with players both here and elsewhere having their stereotypes of the organization as one not committed to winning and disloyal to long-time talent strengthened.
So, what does $5M buy on the open market? Well, last summer:
-Tomas Fleischmann earned $18M/4 years ($4.5M per). Prior to signing as a UFA with Florida, Fleischmann's career high in points was 51. He had 31 points in 45 games in 2010-11.
-Ville Leino earned $27M/6 years ($4.5M per). Prior to that, Leino's career high in a season was 53 points. He had played less than 150 NHL games with 20 points over parts of two seasons with Philadelphia and Detroit.
-Tim Connolly is easily Hemsky's best comparable from last year's UFA market. With a career high of 65 points and a spotty injury history that limited him to 48, 48, 73 and 68 games before becoming a UFA, Connolly took home $9.5M over two years- $4.75M per. That's almost identical to the contract being discussed for Hemsky, and likely the starting point both sides will use in talks.
Hemsky's career high is 77 points. In fact, he has had three seasons as good or better than Leino and Fleischmann. The market would reward that accordingly.
So, in this post, I've substantiated- with examples- that:
-A two-year, $10M contract for Ales Hemsky would not be franchise-crippling.
-A two-year, $10M contract for Ales Hemsky is in fact more likely to reward the Oilers than hurt them.
-A two-year, $10M contract for Ales Hemsky is reasonable given the current market.
I eagerly await a well-thought-out response with similar counter-arguments. I fear, based on the vitriol present in this thread, that I would be better served waiting for Godot.