July 21 2013 10:05PM
The Edmonton Oilers and Sam Gagner are less than 18 hours away from an arbitration hearing, but are both sides willing to take the risk that comes with accepting a one-year deal?
Make no mistake there are risks for both sides.
- By accepting a one-year deal there is the potential that Sam Gagner can play out his contract and become an unrestricted free agent next summer. After seven seasons of developing the former 6th overall pick in 2007, the Oilers could loss him for nothing.
- They could trade him during the season, and at least get an asset or two in return, but if he gets injured he's untradeable.
- They have no one in the organization ready to replace Gagner. They would be dealing from a position of weakness.
- The perception that a young player doesn't want to stay in Edmonton could be harmful.
- Gagner has a great season and the Oilers would have to pay him $5.75 million for eight years.
- They sign him long term, and he never becomes more than a 55 point player.
I sense from many fans that Gagner is in a great position, and he has nothing to lose by accepting a one-year deal. I'm not sure that is the case. I'd agree Gagner has more leverage, but he still has some risk.
- Injury is the biggest risk for Gagner. He is very competitive, he doesn't play on the perimeter, and an injury will impact his next contract. Look at how many players who are one year from unrestricted free agency, yet end up re-signing before the final year of a deal. The security of a long-term deal combined with the risk of an injury in the final year of a deal, is too high more many players.
- He has another up and down season, and doesn't establish himself as a consistent point-producer and two-way centre.
- Will Gagner's stock be higher next summer if he only puts up 50 points this season?
This past season only three UFA forwards received more than $5 million in AAV salary over a four-year term. Mike Ribeiro got $5.5 mill for 4 years, Nathan Horton inked $5.3 million for six years and David Clarkson got $5.25 over 7 seasons. Gagner doesn't bring size or toughness like Horton and Clarkson, but his game is similar to Ribeiro.
Ribeiro is 33, but he tallied 49 points in 48 games last year and in his last 9 seasons he has played 669 games and scored 572 points. He's averaged 0.85 points per game, while in the last 6 seasons Gagner has played 414 games and scored 258 points, 0.62 points per game.
Clearly Ribeiro won't be more productive in his mid 30s as his was his previous nine seasons, but if Gagner doesn't have a 60-point season, is it a guarantee he'll get more than $5 million/season?
- Is the grass always greener? Gagner likes Edmonton, his girlfriend is from here and he's becoming more of a leader every year. The organization speaks and thinks highly of him, but is it certain he will have the same success and opportunity elsewhere if he leaves after this year?
STILL A CHANCE....
Last year, Gagner and the Oilers reached an agreement on the morning of his scheduled July 20th arbitration date, so it is still possible they can avoid an arbitrator.
Both sides would rather avoid the hearing and sign a multi-year extension, and if a no-movement clause is a sticking point, why not meet in the middle and give Gagner one in the final year of a three-year pact. He can't have one next year, (NMC can't kick in until a player is eligible to become a UFA), so spliting the final two years would seem reasonable.
A source told me the Oilers have offered a multi-year deal at $4.5 mill/year, so you know there if room to negotiate and get close to $5mill/year.
This is the most intriguing contract negotiation in recent Oilers' history, because no one is certain what type of player Gagner will become.
Was last season's 38 points in 48 games a preview of his future offensive production?
Or was the fact that he didn't produce late in the year, during the most important ten-game stretch of the season, a sign of what the future holds?
- The Oilers need Gagner, and their lack of future offensive centremen has them in a weak bargaining position, however, the question still remains unanswered if the Oilers can win with Gagner and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins as their future top-two centres.
- The rational part of my brain believes both sides can live with a three-year deal. It allows the Oilers more time to see what Gagner becomes, and Gagner could still test the free agent waters at very young age. It makes the most sense.
- Unfortunately, I've come to realize that rarely do we use the words rational and NHL negotiations in the same sentence.