He finally made his move Wednesday, shipping Hemsky to Ottawa for a third-round pick in the 2014 NHL Entry draft and a fifth-round selection next year. Hemsky scored two goals in a 3-2 win over the Senators a night earlier, a performance that MacTavish said got even more teams interested in the veteran forward.
"Obviously he hadn't scored that much up until that point but then the potential of getting a player who could do those types of things opened up the market," MacTavish said.
The trade ended Hemsky's long run with the Oilers, who drafted him with the 13th overall pick in 2001. The 30-year-old Czech forward had nine goals and 17 assists in 55 games with Edmonton this season.
Hemsky said he had mixed feelings about leaving Edmonton but was looking forward to the challenge of playing with the Senators.
"I expected I would be moved," Hemsky said upon his arrival in Calgary, where Ottawa played Wednesday night. "They talked about it in the summer. I kind of prepared for that. I knew it would happen. I just didn't know where. It's Ottawa and I'm pretty excited for the challenge. Those guys are battling for a playoff spot. I'm happy and try to help them make it."
Hemsky had six goals and 11 assists in 24 playoff games in 2006 when Edmonton lost the Stanley Cup final in seven games to Carolina. The Oilers haven't made the post-season since then.
Also Wednesday, Edmonton shipped defenceman Nick Schultz to the Columbus Blue Jackets for a fifth-round pick and lost defenceman Corey Potter when he was claimed on waivers by the Boston Bruins. Schultz is set to become a free agent July 1.
Hemsky, who has battled injuries in recent seasons, has 477 points (142-335) in 652 career NHL games. His name was regularly mentioned at previous trade deadlines but he had a feeling a move would be made this time.
"It's a weird feeling, especially (because) I've been here for so long," Hemsky said. "I have a lot of great memories."
Hemsky reached the post-season on two occasions with the Oilers. He was held without a point in a first-round exit in 2003 but was a force in Edmonton's run to the Stanley Cup final in 2006, recording 17 points (6-11) in 24 games.
The Oilers lost to the Carolina Hurricanes in seven games.
Hemsky, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, moves from a last-place club in the West to a team that has a shot at the post-season in the East.
Entering Wednesday's games, the Senators were four points out of a playoff spot.
"At least they're still battling for playoffs and they have a good chance," Hemsky said. "It will be a good challenge for me. Hopefully I can play with good players and show what I can do."