Ales Hemsky is holding out hope that his buddy Jaromir Jagr will be an Edmonton Oiler next year.
The injured Oilers winger talks all the time with the former NHL superstar, who's in the final year of his contract in the KLH, and says Jagr is receptive to the idea of a North American return.
"I hope he will because he can still play, he's still a great hockey player," said Hemsky. "When I talked to him before, he was interested in playing (in the NHL). I don't know how he feels now after the tournament. I think after things settle down a bit he will want to come back for one or two years. He can still play on the small rink, he's strong."
Hemsky makes no secret of the fact he'd like Jagr's comeback to happen in Edmonton.
'HE CAN DO 70 POINTS'
"He's not like he was, but he can still be a difference-maker," he said, adding his impact could be felt in any number of ways. "He's a superstar, just having him on the team is good for everybody. That's why I think it would be good. He's a guy who can do 70 points. We don't have guys who can do 70 points."
The sad-sack Oilers seem like the last place a big-name veteran with a gold medal and Stanley Cup rings would want to wrap up his career, but according to Hemsky, Edmonton has a lot of the criteria the 38-year-old is looking for in a destination.
"I think he will want to play some place where he will be happy, where he will know the coach, and maybe where there are a lot of young guys. He doesn't have to have the role he used to have, but he has to feel comfortable."
Edmonton will be young next year and they've got Tom Renney, who coached Jagr in New York. Sounds like a fit.
"I think he would (come to Edmonton)," said Hemsky. "But that's just speculation."
Hemsky also likes the look of Jagr's Olympic linemate, Roman Cervenka, an undrafted 24-year-old centre who has 71 points in 48 Czech Elite League games this season.
"I played with him on the national team," said Hemsky. "He didn't have the strongest (Olympic) tournament, but I still think he's a good player. He's showing in the Czech League he's a really talented guy, a pretty strong kid, too, and pretty smart."
And he'd be ready to go, right out of the box.
"You get a guy who already played somewhere, he's already mature. He's a hard-working guy, he works hard on and off the ice, a really good kid, and he's smart, he can score goals, he's good on the faceoff, but who knows, it's different hockey here."
As for his own situation, Hemsky says he's feeling about as well as anyone who's out for the season can.
"The rehab is going all right, the shoulder is getting better and better and better, so I'm on the right track," said the 26-year-old, who's also working out every day with the club's conditioning trainer.
'A TOUGH YEAR'
"It's been a tough year for everybody. For me it's tough because I only played 22 games, and missed the Olympics, too, and the season hasn't gone right. Everything together is frustrating, but everything bad that happens is good for something. You have to take the positives. I have to get ready for next year, that's my goal. If I don't have any complications over the summer I should be 100% (for training camp)."
He admits he has no idea what the Oilers will look like next year.
"I don't know what will happen here, that's management's business. My goal is just to get ready. If I'm here, I'm here. If I'm not, I'm not. I don't know what the team will do with the players. I'm not even worried about that right now, seriously, I just want to get better, get 100% for next year."