MAPLE LEAFS INTERESTED IN GAGNER?

Robin Brownlee
October 06 2011 10:34AM

Might circumstance and necessity make the Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs trade partners? Toronto Star columnist Damien Cox fuelled speculation today it might be so, citing "persistent chatter" the Maple Leafs are interested in Sam Gagner.

The Oilers are deep at forward and light on defensemen, while the Maple Leafs are relatively deep on the blue line but are looking to improve down the middle, which prompted Cox to mention via Twitter that this "persistent chatter" -- no word on who is actually doing the talking -- makes some sense.

Might there be common ground for a deal there?

DOES IT ADD UP?

Often-injured Tim Connolly, who was supposed to play centre on Toronto's the top line alongside Phil Kessel, is out with a bad shoulder and not expected to play in the Maple Leafs first two games, including the season-opener against Montreal.

Gagner, meanwhile, has been nursing a sprained ankle, so there's no guarantee he'd be ready any sooner than Connolly. In the longer term, however, GM Brian Burke might be looking for somebody like Gagner to bolster his top nine. Burke just added face-off specialist David Steckel, but he's a fourth-liner.

The Oilers have Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Shawn Horcoff, Eric Belanger, Anton Lander and Gagner, when he's healthy, as centres. They also have Chris Vandevelde and Ryan O'Marra on the AHL farm.

While there are questions about Edmonton's blue line depth, especially with Ryan Whitney coming off ankle surgery and Ladislav Smid out with a separated shoulder, the Maple Leafs are heavy on the back end.

They have Dion Phaneuf, Carl Gunnarsson, John-Michael Liles, Luke Schenn, Mike Komisarek and rookie Jake Gardiner in their top six, with Cody Franson, Keith Aulie and Matt Lashoff, just sent to the minors, waiting in the wings.

Even if the Maple Leafs are interested in Gagner, as Cox says, it doesn't mean a thing unless Edmonton GM Steve Tambellini sees somebody in that group as a useful part on his blue line.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

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A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#151 Archaeologuy
October 07 2011, 11:25AM
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Peterborough wrote:

We have in my opinion 5 guys on the big club that can play in the NHL. RNH is got 1C Gags 2C Horc 3C Belanger 4C that is set for years. Lander is knocking on the door and the youngersters mentioned will be looking at the 2-3 C positions soon plus we have guys like Chris Vande Velde, Milan Kytnar and Ryan O'Marra that may well turn into uselful 4Cs.

Is that not depth? I'm not saying trade any of them untill the logjam completes and guys push others out. But it looks very bright at C for the Oil.

After the ones who are with the Oilers in Jasper, how many do we have with legit chances of being more than fringe 4th liners?

O'Marra and Vande Velde are out, Kytnar was never in, Pitlick has yet to establish himself in any league (his 3rd in as many seasons), Martindale comes to the pro leagues with question marks about character but seems like he's got some skill, and Ewanyk just blew out his shoulder after being drafted.

I think I was fair there, but I've listed 2 players who MIGHT still look like they have a chance at being more than AHL callups in their careers and both are unproven in the professional ranks. That is not good depth.

The good news is that at the NHL level there are 3 players under 25 that look like real live NHL players with a variety of skills. That IS bright. However, as soon as those players leave there is nothing to replace them with.

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#152 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
October 07 2011, 11:32AM
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Peterborough wrote:

We have in my opinion 5 guys on the big club that can play in the NHL. RNH is got 1C Gags 2C Horc 3C Belanger 4C that is set for years. Lander is knocking on the door and the youngersters mentioned will be looking at the 2-3 C positions soon plus we have guys like Chris Vande Velde, Milan Kytnar and Ryan O'Marra that may well turn into uselful 4Cs.

Is that not depth? I'm not saying trade any of them untill the logjam completes and guys push others out. But it looks very bright at C for the Oil.

No I wouldn't call that depth. That's simply a farm system, every team has one comparable.

Yes we have centers outside the NHL... that's a function of the draft... if that is the criteria of "depth" then we've had depth for the past 30 years.

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#153 mayorpoop
October 07 2011, 11:51AM
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@ Arch & OB1,

you 2 are the most prolific tag team duo since the CAN-AM connection.

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#154 David S
October 07 2011, 11:52AM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

It's crazy. The second a new name is added into the mix people are treating it like that new player has accomplished something. Travis Freaking Ewanyk?!

If the Oilers trade Sam Gagner today they will have nobody after RNH and Lander with a snowballs chance in hell of being an NHL center within 2 years.

That is not an organization deep at C.

^ This.

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#155 Archaeologuy
October 07 2011, 11:54AM
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@mayorpoop

British Bulldog and the Dynamite Kid?

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#156 David S
October 07 2011, 11:57AM
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Peterborough wrote:

We have in my opinion 5 guys on the big club that can play in the NHL. RNH is got 1C Gags 2C Horc 3C Belanger 4C that is set for years. Lander is knocking on the door and the youngersters mentioned will be looking at the 2-3 C positions soon plus we have guys like Chris Vande Velde, Milan Kytnar and Ryan O'Marra that may well turn into uselful 4Cs.

Is that not depth? I'm not saying trade any of them untill the logjam completes and guys push others out. But it looks very bright at C for the Oil.

Having a whack of guys who "might" be able to play 4C isn't what you call depth at C.

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#157 mayorpoop
October 07 2011, 11:57AM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

British Bulldog and the Dynamite Kid?

nope but that is a way better tag team. good call.

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#158 TigerUnderGlass
October 07 2011, 12:50PM
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@Archaeologuy

I agree with your conclusions, but I do think you're undervaluing Pitlick a bit. He has looked good whenever given a chance to play with pros and my understanding is that he is 1C in OKC. I think he has a pretty reasonable shot at the NHL in 1 or 2 years, and not necessarily at 4C. He could reasonable play 2 or 3C I think.

The rest of them are 4C at best and only if everything goes perfectly from here on out for them, so we definitely cannot afford to give up any depth at Center at this point.

All that being said - I am not opposed to moving Gagner for an equivalent value defender. I just do not believe Tambellini has a hope in hell of getting value for him.

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#159 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
October 07 2011, 12:57PM
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mayorpoop wrote:

@ Arch & OB1,

you 2 are the most prolific tag team duo since the CAN-AM connection.

Just like every great tag team we've had a few feuds along the way.

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#160 Archaeologuy
October 07 2011, 12:58PM
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@TigerUnderGlass

I'll be more generous with Pitlick after a year in the AHL, assuming he is deserving

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#161 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
October 07 2011, 12:59PM
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TigerUnderGlass wrote:

I agree with your conclusions, but I do think you're undervaluing Pitlick a bit. He has looked good whenever given a chance to play with pros and my understanding is that he is 1C in OKC. I think he has a pretty reasonable shot at the NHL in 1 or 2 years, and not necessarily at 4C. He could reasonable play 2 or 3C I think.

The rest of them are 4C at best and only if everything goes perfectly from here on out for them, so we definitely cannot afford to give up any depth at Center at this point.

All that being said - I am not opposed to moving Gagner for an equivalent value defender. I just do not believe Tambellini has a hope in hell of getting value for him.

Pitlick is certainly the best of that bunch.

This will be a big year for him, if he can dominate the AHL at center then we've probably got something, if he's mediocre then we'll have to start thinking about moving him into the suspect pile.

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#162 Archaeologuy
October 07 2011, 01:05PM
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Here's the thing aout Pitlick. He's still very young, but he has now played in 3 different leagues in the past 3 years. With that has been 3 different sets of coaches. And if next year he jumps to the NHL that will be 4 in 4 years. And he's bounced around a couple of positions.

I dont think I'm being overly cautious when I say that this prospect probably needs a little bit of stability.

What I know about him is that he brings grit and skill, and that he scored a lot at evens last season. All very good. I just want to see him do it for a year in the AHL before I add him to the cant miss group.

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#163 Jerk Store
October 07 2011, 01:21PM
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TigerUnderGlass wrote:

I agree with your conclusions, but I do think you're undervaluing Pitlick a bit. He has looked good whenever given a chance to play with pros and my understanding is that he is 1C in OKC. I think he has a pretty reasonable shot at the NHL in 1 or 2 years, and not necessarily at 4C. He could reasonable play 2 or 3C I think.

The rest of them are 4C at best and only if everything goes perfectly from here on out for them, so we definitely cannot afford to give up any depth at Center at this point.

All that being said - I am not opposed to moving Gagner for an equivalent value defender. I just do not believe Tambellini has a hope in hell of getting value for him.

T-U-G

Let me preface this by saying I am a Gagner fan. What type of "equivalent value defender" would Gagner garner? What I take that description to mean is a 4 - 6 year vet who was drafted fairly high but has not panned out exactly as planned, to this point. As I type I realize that sounds suspiciously like Cam Barker (actually drafted 7 yrs ago), who we got for zip.

I am not asking this to be a smart a$$, I actually am wondering if you could give an example of a defenceman you think we could get for Gagner at this point? My preference would be to wait until Gagner can come back from injury and either a) be a key contributor b) increase his trade value or c) confirm what many - not me - believe; that he is a tweener with not quite enough skill to be a good / very good 2nd line center or enough size and grit to be a 3rd liner.

EDIT: Sorry as I re-read this I see you are essentially saying the same thing. It will be tough to get a reasonable return that will solve our D-issues. My bad.

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#164 Archaeologuy
October 07 2011, 01:49PM
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@Jerk Store

Cam Barker and Sam Gagner could not be further apart from each other interms of draft expectations and actual production.

Cam Barker is on team #3 and was just bought out. He couldnt last on 2 NHL Clubs. He was a 3rd overall pick who is verging on being a fringe NHLer.

Sam Gagner is the 2nd leading scorer from his draft year, and he had fallen out of the lottery.

Make that argument about Filatov or Brule, not Gagner

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#165 Jerk Store
October 07 2011, 02:47PM
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@Archaeologuy

Fair enough that is a good point and perhaps it was an unfair comparison. Although would you concede that guys from that draft like JVR, Couture, Shattenkirk, maybe even Jamie Benn who all have less career points than Gagner but hold more current trade value?

Second, if you put on your GM hat (after removing your fashionable snap brim fedora) is there any D-man that another GM would reasonably trade (I realize you are well beyond the Omark and a 2nd for Weber crowd), that you would take for Gagner?

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#166 Archaeologuy
October 07 2011, 03:03PM
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@Jerk Store

Why wouldnt there be? I have a player with high pedigree who can put up 40+ points in his sleep and is getting paid half of what guys like JVR are making even though he's more productive. Oh, and he jsut turned 22. Next year he's RFA so you can negotiate your own contract.

You really think 29 other teams are looking at Gagner and saying that there isnt 1 defenseman on their roster that they wouldnt trade for a young productive centreman?

But who cares, because trading him would be an Oiler mistake. So it's best not to even think about.

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#167 Jerk Store
October 07 2011, 03:19PM
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@Archaeologuy

On the last statement we can agree.

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#168 BloodyEyes13
October 07 2011, 03:50PM
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This is going to be Sam Gagner's best season, if he can keep healthy. He may have not had the best totals last season, but he matured more and more as the season went along. Give him top-6 minutes this season, and he'll surprise us all.

It's far too soon to trade Gagner, and he will be a big part of the Oiler's future. He & RNH will be a great 1/2 center combo for years to come. I know a lot of people will complain that they're both too small, but with the rule changes coming up for hits to the head & potentially fighting, size will matter less and less, and skilled players will benefit.

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#169 TigerUnderGlass
October 07 2011, 06:00PM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

I'll be more generous with Pitlick after a year in the AHL, assuming he is deserving

That's fair - I'm mainly just pointing out that while your descriptions to date have left him sounding like part of the VDV and O'Marra group I think the odds are in his favor at is point of making it to the NHL eventually. The odds are still very much against the rest of them.

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#170 TigerUnderGlass
October 07 2011, 06:08PM
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@Jerk Store

I wouldn't move Gagner at this time unless I am getting something like Blum, or a likely can't miss prospect like Elliott or Rundblad.

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#171 Peterborough
October 08 2011, 06:07PM
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David S wrote:

Having a whack of guys who "might" be able to play 4C isn't what you call depth at C.

When you have 3 guys under 23 that can play in the NHL and two legit 2-3 guys that have a good range of skills, yes. Add to that 2 others who might be knocking at the door for top 6 mins in 1/2 years plus 4 others who have a shot at your bottom 6, big yes.

To quote FH on oiler prospects:

"Team Strengths: 1 Size and depth on the blueline 2 Wingers with a wide range of skills 3 Size and depth up the middle"

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