Does Brule signing impact Cogliano and Gagner?

Jason Gregor
July 28 2010 06:42AM

EDMONTON, AB - SEPTEMBER 30:  Known as the kid line, are Robert Nilsson #12, Sam Gagner #89 and Andrew Cogliano #13 of the Edmonton Oilers skate in a game against the Calgary Flames in the third period during a preseason NHL game on September 30, 2008 at Rexall Arena in Edmonton, Canada. Calgary beat the Edmonton Oilers 4-0. (Photo by Jimmy Jeong/Getty Images)

Gilbert Brule avoided arbitration and signed a tidy two-year, $3.7 million deal with the Oilers on Tuesday. With Brule under contract that leaves Jeff Deslauriers, who will sign before his August 4th arbitration hearing, Andrew Cogliano and Sam Gagner as the only remaining RFAs without a contract.

Some wonder how, or if, Brule’s contract will impact the term and salary Cogliano and Gagner receive. It could have an impact, but I don’t think it is as cut and dry as some suggest.

Many have stated that there is no way Andrew Cogliano deserves, or receives, more than $1.2 million. He doesn’t have arbitration rights, but he is only four years from becoming an UFA.

It is amazing how short our memories are and how much perception can blur reality.

Brule tallied 17 goals and 20 assists last year and most think his $1.85 million/season is a fair contract. Cogliano had a career-low ten goals and 28 points last year and now many think he is automatically less of a player than Brule.

Why is this? I’m guessing because Brule is coming off a career-high and Cogliano a career-low in points.

In Cogliano’s first two years he tallied 18-27-45 and 18-19-37, both better numbers than Brule’s career high. ***Please don’t inform me that had Brule played 82 games his totals would have been 21-25-46, because those are only projections, not facts. No one call tell me with certainty Gagner would have produced at that level.***

So Cogliano has had two better seasons than Brule, yet he isn’t worth as much?

Would it be fair to suggest that Cogliano had an off-year possibly? Did all the trade talks affect him? (Yes, because he admitted they did). Like the “over 82 games” argument there is basis for an argument, but regardless of the situation Cogliano didn’t produce like he did in his first two seasons.

But will one down year impact his salary demands more than one good year for Brule impacted his?

I think it will, regardless of whether that is fair or correct, but that doesn’t mean it should.

Hockey and sports in general function with a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately scenario in most cases. Brule comes of a career-high and the organization feels he is on the upswing, while Cogliano sets a career-low and many wonder if he will ever be a top-six forward.

I’ve watched both players, and while I like Brule’s overall game better, Cogliano could easily morph into a 20-25 goal man in the right situation. The big question is if that situation is here with the Oilers?

Last year Cogliano improved, and I use that term loosely, to 43% in the faceoff dot. It’s still well below average, but it was a 6% improvement over his 2nd season, so it was progress. If he becomes 47% in the dot can he be an asset? What if splits some of the faceoff duties with a winger, (Penner, Brule or even Hall) would that be feasible.

I still think it is too early to write off Cogliano just yet. If you want to write him off because the Oilers have too many small forwards, I’ll listen, and agree with that argument, but I don’t think you can guarantee his skill as just being a 35-point player. And trading Cogliano right now would likely garner below market value.

Remember that Robert Nilsson got $2 million/season after a career-high 41 points in 2008. I’m not suggesting the Oilers repeat their stupidity and give Cogliano something similar, but I could easily see Cogliano in the $1.5-$1.8 million range.

Does Gagner deserve $500,000 more?

Sam Gagner has yet to match his rookie season of 13 goals and 49 points, but he has been relatively close. Back-to-back 41 point seasons give him three more productive seasons that Brule, but he has never scored as many goals as Brule’s 17.

Growing up we were always told goals and assists are equal, but a 75-point forward with 40 goals is normally deemed more valuable than a 30-goal forward with 75 points. Sure there are exceptions, Joe Thornton and Peter Forsberg, but even with a Hart Trophy how many of you felt Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin were better and made more of an impact than Henrik Sedin last season?

Without looking at the stats, who do you think was a better player last year, Steven Stamkos or Marty St.Louis? Stamkos had 51 goals to St.Louis’ 29, but Stamkos only had one more point.

How many times have people suggested Gretzky isn’t the best goal-scorer of all-time, despite having the most goals, strictly because he was regarded as such a great passer.

I still feel the ability to score goals is harder than the ability to be a great playmaker. They are vastly different, but I would argue a good play maker needs a finisher more than a finisher needs a set up guy. When you pass the puck you have to rely on the other guy to beat the goalie. You can go end-to-end and score without the help of a teammate. You can register and unassisted goal, but you can’t register and “ungoaled” assist. And while landing a saucer pass over a stick or through skates is a great gift, it doesn’t compare to beating a goalie with over-sized equipment.

But I digress.

To date Gagner has produced more than Brule, but I’m not sold that he will be that much of a better player. Gagner will get a better shot to succeed because the Oilers have more depth on the wing than at centre right now.

There are concerns over what Gagner’s production will look like in the coming years. He has yet to improve on his rookie season, and some argue he has regressed. Gagner had a productive rookie season, but I don’t think he has worked hard enough on his foot speed and overall strength and that’s why we’ve seen a slight decline in his production.

Brule skates better and possesses a harder and more accurate shot. Most importantly, he admitted on my show yesterday, “that he finally knows what it takes to succeed in the NHL.” That is major battle for young players, and once it clicks many of them become more confident and more productive.

Up until now the organization has wanted Gagner to succeed, and he has been given more opportunity than Cogliano or Brule. If that trend continues then he should produce more than Brule, and I suspect with the additions of Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Magnus Pääjärvi that won’t change. He is the centre of the future, while Brule will most likely play the wing and battle for ice-time with those three.

That being said, if the Oilers could lock Gagner up at two years for $2.5 million/season, I suspect they’d rather do that than give him a one-year/$2 million deal. Next year he would have arbitration rights, and if he blossoms into a 60-point player then they’d have to buck up more than $3 million.

They could give him a three year deal, but then Eberle, Hall, Pääjärvi and Gagner would all need a contract in the summer of 2013. That could be a financial disaster.

The Oilers have stated all summer that they are determined to develop their young players, and Gagner is still very young. He’s only nine months older than Jordan Eberle, but with three more years of NHL experience. Why do some fans want to toss him to the side, when it’s been proven many offensive players take closer to four or five years before they become consistently productive.

I find it laughable when some suggest he will “only” become a number two centre. If he is only a number two what’s wrong with that? Only the true elite players become legitimate #1 centremen. The last two years have been a bit of a disappointment for Gagner, but history shows it is too early to accurately determine how productive Gagner will become in the next five to seven seasons.  There are too many intangibles at play; new coach, new teammates, injuries, attitude, opportunity, mental toughness and maturity, to decipher if he will blossom into an offensive force.

Cogliano’s value is hard to determine at this point and Gagner’s is even more of a mystery.

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One of Canada's most versatile sports personalities. Jason hosts The Jason Gregor Show, weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m., on TSN 1260, and he writes a column every Monday in the Edmonton Journal. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JasonGregor
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#51 hoovisonfire
July 28 2010, 02:48PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

Strength helps, but it is strength in the right areas. Guys used to think strong wrists gave you a strong wrist shot, but it isn't as easy as that. Now guys use core strength, the ability to transfer weight throughtout their body to increase their velocity.

Repetition will help the most. If he doesn't have the most overpowering shot he can work on getting it off quicker and being more accurate. That will come from boring repetitions.

Strength helps, but Steve Serdachny, skills and skating coach of the Oilers, addressed this on my show a month ago and said it comes down to practice. Working on different release points and different angles on the ice to shoot from. Velocity definitely helps, but quickness and accuracy are just as important.

There was a feature ran last season - I think on Sportsnet - about Gagner's stick.

He purposely employs a thicker blade on his stick for softer passes, and admits that this takes a few km/h off of his shot.

That being said, Hemsky plays with one of the smallest blades allowed and we've all seen at least one or two good passes from #83.

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#52 Crash
July 28 2010, 03:01PM
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Belly12 wrote:

In a perfect world...... Package Sammy, Cogs and Shelly for Richards(Dallas) and Fistric (Dallas). We are in a true rebuilding mode and we need a true number one center that can do everything. Also Richards would make a true number one line with hemmer and Penner (possibly one of the rookies). This eliminates the two number two centers, and takes pressure off Horcoff. Which he will need when he gets named captain and which he should for serving a decade with the Oilers (and please dont say Horcoff is a number 1 center). In turn is your penalty killing and your power play set up guy. Give him a contract extension as he only has one year left. Both are Canadian. Fistric is from Edmonton and would sloidify the back end for a decent price with two years left. This will make room for some of the rookies. Having a true 1,2, center also improves the development and confidence of the younger players. We have got to make room somehow.

Couple of things..first off not sure how you can say in one sentence we are in a true rebuilding mode and in anonther sentence you are saying we trade a 20 yr old up and coming center for a 30 yr old high priced player who will become UFA after next season and would likely walk away from the Oilers.

It would have to be a perfect world for him (Richards) to sign long term after next season and with him making 7.8 mil per I don't like our chances of signing him. Plus he would soon be starting the down side of his career.

Doesn't really sound like a true rebuild to me.

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#53 gulfbill@aol.com
July 28 2010, 03:09PM
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What's the big hullaballu over Brule. He's a decent smallish forward who has a propensity to get injured. Probably will never become a superstar. Scored 17 goals last year right behind Penner for the team lead in goal scoring. Saw that Gregor tweeted that Brule had a better season than MacArthur who got 2.4 million. Actually MacArthur got awarded 2.4 by an arbitrator and that deal was declined by the Thrashers therefore thus far MacArthur has got nothing and is now a UFA. Kudos to the Thrashers. I'll bet that Brule agreed to this deal exactly because the Thrashers kiboshed the MacArthur deal as well as the fact that the Nucks signed Raymond to his deal.

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#54 Max Powers - Team HME Evans
July 28 2010, 03:23PM
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gulfbill@aol.com wrote:

What's the big hullaballu over Brule. He's a decent smallish forward who has a propensity to get injured. Probably will never become a superstar. Scored 17 goals last year right behind Penner for the team lead in goal scoring. Saw that Gregor tweeted that Brule had a better season than MacArthur who got 2.4 million. Actually MacArthur got awarded 2.4 by an arbitrator and that deal was declined by the Thrashers therefore thus far MacArthur has got nothing and is now a UFA. Kudos to the Thrashers. I'll bet that Brule agreed to this deal exactly because the Thrashers kiboshed the MacArthur deal as well as the fact that the Nucks signed Raymond to his deal.

Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but when 2 sides go into an arbitration each side submits what they think the player is worth. Now, it seems to me that the arbitor picks either or. He either rules for the player or he rules against him, which would mean that it's either the high or the low. So if Atl was coming in to the negotiations extremely low-balling McCarthur, like for say 785k, then the arbitrator might have just ruled to the side that was less ridiculous. Of course, this is only what I'm inclined to believe. I've also heard that Arbitrators come up with a number they feel is fair, somewhere in between both sides. Anyone know for sure?

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#55 Max Powers - Team HME Evans
July 28 2010, 03:39PM
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@Crash

I'm with you Crash, but only after the dust settled. At first I was surprised he only went for a 2nd rounder and a little disappointed but it made sense later on. He was one of our best D-men in '09 and top 4 on the team, even if it was the worst team in the league. Although any team with Grebs as a top 4 deserves to be drafting 1st.

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#57 Crash
July 28 2010, 03:58PM
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Max Powers - Team HME Evans wrote:

Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but when 2 sides go into an arbitration each side submits what they think the player is worth. Now, it seems to me that the arbitor picks either or. He either rules for the player or he rules against him, which would mean that it's either the high or the low. So if Atl was coming in to the negotiations extremely low-balling McCarthur, like for say 785k, then the arbitrator might have just ruled to the side that was less ridiculous. Of course, this is only what I'm inclined to believe. I've also heard that Arbitrators come up with a number they feel is fair, somewhere in between both sides. Anyone know for sure?

I'm not sure when they changed it but I'm pretty sure they did make it so that the arbitrator can now decide on a figure based on the arguements of both sides that is somewhere in between what the club is offering and what the player is deciding.

I believe the arbitrator can also deem the contract to be a one or two year contract.

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#58 MattL
July 28 2010, 04:32PM
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Max Powers - Team HME Evans wrote:

Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but when 2 sides go into an arbitration each side submits what they think the player is worth. Now, it seems to me that the arbitor picks either or. He either rules for the player or he rules against him, which would mean that it's either the high or the low. So if Atl was coming in to the negotiations extremely low-balling McCarthur, like for say 785k, then the arbitrator might have just ruled to the side that was less ridiculous. Of course, this is only what I'm inclined to believe. I've also heard that Arbitrators come up with a number they feel is fair, somewhere in between both sides. Anyone know for sure?

You're thinking of baseball.

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#59 russ99
July 28 2010, 05:08PM
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SurfacetoAirMissile wrote:

The best thing that has happened over Sam's short profesional career is when PQ sent a message to him by putting him on the 4th line at the beginning of the season last year. He was forced to earn his opportunities and showed everyone he is willing to do what it takes to grow into a great NHLer. I am looking forward to watching him over the next couple season's to see if Sam can develop into the player the organization thinks he can be. However, I think if he ever wants to where the "C" then he needs a new nickname!

The thing is PQ did the same thing to Cogliano, and he was in the doghouse most of the season because he didn't play good enough defense or have enough " jam".

That approach works for some players and not at all for others. I'd like to see the Oilers re-sign Cogs and see how he responds to Renney and the face that there's three good prospects pushing him. No sense in trading him now...

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#60 Max Powers - Team HME Evans
July 28 2010, 05:15PM
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MattL wrote:

You're thinking of baseball.

I don't think so, but might be. The only arbitration case I had ever really read a lot of was Travis Greenes (I think) back in the mid-90's or something. Some blogger on Ecklunds site posted it a couple years ago and it was pretty fascinating. It explained the whole arbitration process, beginning to end in layman (sp?) terms even. Wish i had a link to it. But yeah, I've never really delved deeply into baseball enough to worry about arbitration cases.

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#61 a lg dubl dubl
July 28 2010, 05:40PM
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I dont really get all the "we need a true #1 centerman" crap. IMO the oilers already have 1 in Gagner just give him some time, sure his FO% wasnt that great last year but i think sam has the gumption enough to know where his weaknesses are and hopefully he put in extra time in the off season to get better. I like how he pushed his way up the depth chart after staring the year on the 4th line, shows hes definitly has the will enough to get better as the season wears on. He will get better ppl!!

Id also like to see Gagner signed for 2-2.5mil( include bonuses to make 2.5) for nothin less than 2yrs, id hate to see another Doug Weight fiasco with #89 and he holds out after this contract or next, not sayin that will happen but....

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#62 Brenda
July 28 2010, 05:47PM
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Jason if your "good looking" in shape and rather successful, how come your so old and not in a steady relationship. Just a simple shot at your ego but I can only think of one reason.... Lol. Your a great radio guy. Lose the ego

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#63 Archaeologuy
July 28 2010, 05:56PM
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@Brenda

Really? That's weak.

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#64 TigerUnderGlass
July 28 2010, 06:21PM
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@ Max Powers

Re: Arbitration

It is not an either/or situation. Here are the required elements in an arbitration decision:

From the CBA S12.9(n)(ii)

(ii) The decision of the Salary Arbitrator shall establish:

(A) the term of the SPC, based upon the Player's or Club's election of a one or two year SPC, as set forth in its brief and as consistent with this Article;

(B) the Paragraph 1 NHL Salary to be paid to the Player by the Club for the season(s) in respect to which the arbitration is conducted;

(C) the inclusion or otherwise of a Minor League clause (or clauses) and the amount of Paragraph 1 Minor League Salary to be paid under each of the season(s) in respect to which the arbitration is requested;

(D) a brief statement of the reasons for the decision, including identification of any comparable(s) relied on.

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#65 KenMcC
July 28 2010, 06:42PM
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@Dyckster

In a competitive world, FIST gets us going nicely. It's actually not easy to achieve.

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#66 Wanyes bastard child
July 28 2010, 07:35PM
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*bides his time for a few more comments*

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#67 rindog
July 28 2010, 07:56PM
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@Jason Gregor

The biggest difference between Brule and Cogliano is their versatility. When Cogliano isn't putting up points, he isn't doing much of anything else (ala Robert Nilsson). When Brule isn't producing, he is hitting, agitating, forechecking, etc.

Cogliano is a soft, one dimensional player - Brule is not.

That is why it is totally realistic to use Brule's contact as an indicator as to how much less Cogliano should make.

Exactly how much less are we talking about?

That is a good question???

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#68 OvenChicken8 - Team JSBM
July 29 2010, 09:07AM
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@Brenda

Worst troll ever.

JG have you heard any updates regarding the Gagner or Cogs negotiations?

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#70 Max Powers - Team HME Evans
July 29 2010, 05:35PM
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@TigerUnderGlass

Thank you Senor. Very informative.

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#71 Quicksilver ballet
July 29 2010, 08:45PM
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Brenda wrote:

Jason if your "good looking" in shape and rather successful, how come your so old and not in a steady relationship. Just a simple shot at your ego but I can only think of one reason.... Lol. Your a great radio guy. Lose the ego

I'm not too ashamed to admit i found this message very stimulating....i'm darn sure there's some literary porn buried in that cry for a date somewhere.

If you're already busy this weekend Jason would it be okay if i took your place. I'll be anyone she wants me to be.

Never rub another mans rhubarb......I await your permission sir.

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