Trading Sam Gagner to the Los Angeles Kings Would Likely be a Mistake

Jonathan Willis
February 05 2014 09:33PM

Everybody and their dog seems to want the Edmonton Oilers to move Sam Gagner for whatever the team can get and the sooner the better. That’s why comments by Hockey Night in Canada’s Elliotte Friedman suggesting the Los Angeles Kings had serious interest in Gagner have attracted significant attention in Edmonton.

Clifford & Nolan

Bob Stauffer of Oilers Now was asked on Wednesday’s show about the Gagner rumours. He said the return was “going to be a guy like a [Kyle] Clifford or a [Jordan] Nolan or a [Dwight] King,” and that “there’s going to be a financial component involved” in this scenario, hinting that the Oilers would be retaining salary in the deal.

Let’s look at those players. Among Kings forwards with more than 20 games played, Clifford ranks 12th in even-strength ice-time per game and Nolan ranks 13th. Neither of them kills penalties. Basically, they’re both big, young fourth-liners who contribute almost nothing beyond a physical game. The Oilers have some experience grabbing fourth-liner off high-end teams – guys like Colin Fraser and Ben Eager. Those guys looked great in Chicago, and looked terrible in Edmonton.

Would Clifford or Nolan be an upgrade on, say, Jesse Joensuu? Absolutely. Are they going to play top-nine minutes? Probably not. Nolan couldn’t score in the AHL, and Clifford had 28 points in the OHL in his draft year. They’re fourth-line guys.

If Luke Gazdic and Jesse Joensuu and Teemu Hartikainen and Lennart Petrell and Ben Eager and all the rest of the big forwards the Oilers have run through their fourth line show anything, it’s that adding a big, physical guy to the bottom of the roster doesn’t do anything to fix the problems in the top-six. So trading a guy like Gagner, who has problems but is a proven NHL scorer, for a younger version of Ben Eager or a better version of Luke Gazdic is kind of a stupid thing to do.

Dwight King

Dwight King is a better player, but he’s also a guy who had 17 points in 28 AHL games last year and had 33 in 79 AHL games two seasons ago. He has 23 points this season, playing primarily with Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter. He’s a big (6’4”, 230 pounds), young (he turns 25 this summer) left wing that can play top-nine minutes and kill penalties and add a physical presence. If the Oilers are moving Gagner for a forward, that’s the guy who the Kings might be willing to move and who is in the same value-range.

Now, the problems. If Gagner goes, that means Edmonton is relying on a Mark Arcobello or Anton Lander to play centre on the second line. As a guy who likes both players, I’d enjoy watching that but as an NHL G.M. I wouldn’t be at all comfortable with it. Maybe Gagner needs to be replaced anyway, but moving him for King means that Edmonton now has a second-line centre slot to fill. Is it easier to add a guy like King in free agency, or a guy like Gagner? If the Oilers need a big guy who can be plugged in on the second line, they can sign a Nikolai Kulemin or David Moss in the summer. There simply aren't second-line centres available, unless they can somehow talk Paul Stastny into moving to Edmonton. 

The second problem is salary. Sam Gagner has this season and two more with a $4.8 million cap hit. King has this season and one more at $750,000. So Edmonton would need to take another contract back, and probably need to eat half of Gagner’s contract. Yes, the salary cap is going up but this is also an Oilers team that needs to add significantly on defence and on the third line; spending $2.4 million for the next two seasons so that L.A. can have a cheap Gagner seems misguided.

I like King a lot, and he’s a nice fit for Edmonton. He’s just not a nice enough fit to justify dumping Gagner and retain half his salary in the process. Toss Jake Muzzin or Tyler Toffoli in, and there might be something to think about – but it’s not likely that the Kings are going to do that. 

Recently by Jonathan Willis

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#201 Zarny
February 06 2014, 03:53PM
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Serious Gord wrote:

Getzlaf struggled for a short period perhaps, Gagner has consistently underperformed - or rather has performed below the expectations/dreams of many on oilers management and omany more oilers fans.

Gagner wasn't getting 4.8 mill two years ago.

negative value is very simple and common:

You own a car that is appraised at $10000 and you outstanding loan is $15000. The car has a negative value of $5000.

Gagner is worth maybe 3mill/yr over 3 years (let's say) - in other words he could be replaced by a player of equal benefit for $3mill. and he's signed for 4.8 for 3 years. Thus he has a negative total value of 5.4 mill or 1,8 mill/year.

I don't think Gagner has performed below expectations of management or fans. Not on a pt/gm basis. You can't control injuries.

I agree Gagner wasn't getting 4.8 million 2 years ago.

Like it or not though Gord, Gagner finished tied for 34th in league scoring last year. That gets you $4.8 million when you haven't even played 1 game in your prime.

Gagner certainly hasn't played up to $4.8 million this year; but then again he had his jaw caved in to start the season. Sh*t happens.

As for negative value sorry I disagree. You assume Gagner won't play or produce better the next two years when he isn't injured. Based on last year that's a very poor assumption.

If the amount of the overpay was worth more than a player's worth, or in other words if a player played up to less than half his contract value then I could see calling it negative value.

Based on your definition Crosby has been a millstone of negative value for the Pens.

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#202 Zarny
February 06 2014, 04:11PM
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Serious Gord wrote:

Nothing you say takes into account contract and other tangible and intangible aspects of their games. And those things HAVE to be accounted for.

What tangibles does Bozak bring? He's sporting a 47.9% on FO and is worse defensively than Gagner.

Monahan's FO% is the exact same as Gagner's while being on pace for 14 fewer pts than Gagner in his rookie year.

Hanzal is only a career 50% on FO. Sorry for a guy whose never gone above 36 pts even once in his life his "intangibles" don't outweigh the offensive drop off.

Legwand is getting paid $4.5M a year.

Sorry but the contracts and "tangibles" for these players aren't that great. Some are certainly better fits behind Nuge but overall none of the 2C on that list are a considerable upgrades to Gagner except Zajac and Schenn.

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#203 Truth
February 06 2014, 04:21PM
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Everyone does realize that Gagner has played on the worst performing team in the league for his entire career, right?

The team is -258 in goal differential since he joined the team. Being a plus player on this team for that entire stretch would either a) be a miracle, or b) be a player that plays an extremely limited role.

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#204 Doctor Smashy
February 06 2014, 04:21PM
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The hate for Gagner is getting a little silly. We can all acknowledge that Gagner has had a rough year defensively but I have yet to read anything even close to convincing explaining why the Oilers are generally so bad this year...everyone. Sure our defense is weak but does that make Hall pass to no one in particular at the point? Does that make Eberle hang on to the puck forever without shooting? Does that make Yakupov inexplicably fall down while doing a routine pivot? Seriously people, PhD theses will be written on why the Oilers have been THIS bad this year. As for Gagner - the facts are these:

From the 2007 entry draft there is exactly one player who has more points than the reviled Sam Gagner - it is Patrick Kane.

There are exactly five players who have more points per game than Gagner from the 2007 draft (Hmmm, he was 6th overall pick....). They are: Patrick Kane - 0.964 pts/game Jamie Benn - 0.759 pts/game Logan Couture - 0.731 pts/game Max Pacioretty - 0.636 pts/game Jakub Voracek - 0.632 pts/game

Sam Gagner is at 0.612 pts/game

So Kane is the best, fine. Benn was a 5th round pick and Dallas picked 4 dudes ahead of him - so that makes every GM an idiot I suppose. Logan Couture has been on a GREAT team for his whole career - might have something to do with it, might not. Pacioretty is ahead of Gags on the strength of ONE good season - he's a good player but has played far fewer games...we'll see how his career looks in 10 years. Anyone who would rather have Voracek, well sure he's bigger but I'm not sure he all that much better than Gagner - tough to say because I haven't seen him play very much.

Gagner has put up the same points per game practically ever year (higher last year and lower this year by about the same amount). You can call that a lack of improvement or you can call that consistency. Who cares. He is very good player on a very bad team with alot of problems. You DO NOT trade Sam Gagner for a third line plug.

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#205 Rod from Viking
February 06 2014, 04:23PM
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The biggest reason not to trade Gagner is to make sure we get a top 3 pick, we need to keep him and play him a lot in all situations and take all the face-offs in the defensive zone. Trade him in the summer to a team that needs to get to the cap floor.

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#206 Doctor Smashy
February 06 2014, 04:23PM
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And for what it's worth, Zarny is owning ever Gagner-hating clown on this board today.

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#207 A-Mc
February 06 2014, 04:30PM
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Doctor Smashy wrote:

And for what it's worth, Zarny is owning ever Gagner-hating clown on this board today.

Agreed, and i'm glad he is. i was getting tired of repeating myself.

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#208 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
February 06 2014, 04:33PM
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I hope that GM's around the league are as split on the value of Gagner as Oilers fans are. That would mean that 15 teams wouldn't be interested and 15 teams would value him in a way that returns a top six player or, if the oilers add in a prospect, a number 2 D Man.

It's going to be fascinating to see what happens!

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#209 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
February 06 2014, 04:41PM
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I think Gagner's fate will be determined at the draft. If the Oilers get Ekblad they will hang on to Gagner for at least one more year. If the Oilers get a center at the draft they move Arco or a fee agent to #2 C role and play the rookie centre on third or fourth line. Gagner gets dealt as part of a package for a # 2 Dman.

I say this because I firmly believe that Oilers management is focused on a longer time horizon than many here would like.

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#210 camdog
February 06 2014, 05:11PM
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The problems on this team are higher than Sam Gagner. When he had big, defensively reliable Penner on his wing he played a good game.

Problem is he doesn't work with small, defensively unreliable wingers. It's been 8 years of the same team make up. Doesn't seem to matter who the GM is, they still try the same things. That tells me the problem is higher than the GM, who would have thunk it?

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#211 big slick
February 06 2014, 05:42PM
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If you are going to trade Gagner, wait until June and then trade him for the best d-man possible. Then draft best center possible for #2C spot. Oilers are winger rich, d-man poor, Center poor (#2 AND #4 if you trade Gagner, and goalie poor. Trading Gagner, at a discount because he has had a tough year, for a winger does not make sense unless you are getting a top 4 winger. That top 4 winger is not coming in a trade deadline deal unless you are trading with another non-playoff team.

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#212 big slick
February 06 2014, 05:47PM
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@Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

When does Gagner's NTC kick in, July 1st?

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#213 The Soup Fascist
February 06 2014, 07:13PM
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Serious Gord wrote:

Negative Value is not a difficult concept. If they are delivering less than they are getting paid - they have negative value.

Could the oil - if they had the 5 mill and the roster spot - find a better player than gagner? Given time - absolutely.

Comparing Getzlaf to Gagner via just points is ridiculous and does little to enlighten the discussion.

For the love of God .... er .... Gord. How can you try to sell this with a straight face ? "Negative Value" ????

For whatever category you set - let's say forwards making 4.5 to 5 million per year using whatever criteria you use - at some point there is an average where there is an expectation that if you are above the line you are outperforming the contract. If you are below the average you are under performing.

By your definition HALF THE PLAYERS IN THE FREAKING LEAGUE HAVE A NEGATIVE VALUE. Yet you would like everyone to believe Gagner is the only guy in the league with a questionable contract.

Clearly many don't think Gagner is a suitable 2C for this team. I don't disagree given the team's make up and Gagner's strengths and weaknesses. But for all the haters, sorry, Sam Gagner is an honest to God ... er .... Gord NHL forward. A very skilled, but flawed player. There is a place for him to succeed in the right setting. To pin the Oilers wows for the last 6.5 years primarily on him is ridiculous. To take the first warm body offered up is moronic.

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#214 Danger Pay
February 06 2014, 07:57PM
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Terrible, terrible, terrible trade...unless Gagner has checked out. Even then I'm sure he'd waive his no- trade and No Way should the Oilers retain any salary. I am sick and tired of the Oilers paying a player to play for another team! I'd rather gamble and showcase Gagner next year.

*I'm talking about the Clifford for Gags and the Oilers retain salary rumour* If there's more to the deal and there better be, I'll update my opinion on it at that time

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#215 David S
February 06 2014, 08:05PM
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Al Low wrote:

Ask yourself, would any contender have Gagner in a 2LC spot? Get off his nuts, David S. He's not good enough, even on the Oilers.

From all reports, sounds like cup contender LA Kings are pretty damn interested. Funny how those things go huh?

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#216 nuge2nail
February 06 2014, 08:07PM
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Oiler Domination To Follow

Draft your future second line center- dump Gagners cap space and make a trade happen. He's too small.

King, Clifford and Muzzin

for

Gagner @2.4 - 2 years.

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#217 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
February 06 2014, 08:08PM
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big slick wrote:

When does Gagner's NTC kick in, July 1st?

Hey Big Slick....anything I've read says July 1st 2014.

Calendar

Feb. 9 - 25: Olympic Break

Feb. 26: NHL season resumes

Mar. 5: Trade Deadline, 3pm et

Apr. 13: Last day of regular season

Apr. 15: NHL Draft Lottery

Apr. 16: Stanley Cup Playoffs begin

June 27 - 28: 2014 NHL Draft in Philadelphia

July 1: Free agent signing period begins

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#218 Saytalk
February 06 2014, 08:11PM
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Have any of you actually watched Gagner play? Or do you only judge a player by his box scores and how he compares to players from the same draft year (a weak year to boot)?

A small one-dimensional forward who contributes nothing beyond his pedestrian point at a ~0.6 PPG rate. Watch him backcheck in his own zone and you can see what a joke of a player he is. You can say he's bad because he's part of a bad team, but as the current 2C and a veteran among most of the forwards, Gagner is more the cause than the effect of this team's awfulness.

If King is on the table, then I'd make the deal happen, even if it means retaining some salary. Better yet, trade Gagner to the Canucks so we can sabotage their chances of making the playoffs next year.

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#219 David S
February 06 2014, 08:26PM
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Doctor Smashy wrote:

And for what it's worth, Zarny is owning ever Gagner-hating clown on this board today.

Both of you guys are killing it. Zarny has made every Gagner hater on here look like a junior high school fanboy.

Well done boys but I'm not sure your brand of common sense is appreciated on this thread.

Too bad. We could use more of you.

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#220 David S
February 06 2014, 08:27PM
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camdog wrote:

The problems on this team are higher than Sam Gagner. When he had big, defensively reliable Penner on his wing he played a good game.

Problem is he doesn't work with small, defensively unreliable wingers. It's been 8 years of the same team make up. Doesn't seem to matter who the GM is, they still try the same things. That tells me the problem is higher than the GM, who would have thunk it?

^ THIS - and why he's gonna rip it up in LA.

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#221 tabs
February 06 2014, 08:45PM
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Saytalk wrote:

Have any of you actually watched Gagner play? Or do you only judge a player by his box scores and how he compares to players from the same draft year (a weak year to boot)?

A small one-dimensional forward who contributes nothing beyond his pedestrian point at a ~0.6 PPG rate. Watch him backcheck in his own zone and you can see what a joke of a player he is. You can say he's bad because he's part of a bad team, but as the current 2C and a veteran among most of the forwards, Gagner is more the cause than the effect of this team's awfulness.

If King is on the table, then I'd make the deal happen, even if it means retaining some salary. Better yet, trade Gagner to the Canucks so we can sabotage their chances of making the playoffs next year.

Somebody needed to say it, well said.

Lot of un-knowledgeable posters here.

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#222 Doctor Smashy
February 06 2014, 09:47PM
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Saytalk wrote:

Have any of you actually watched Gagner play? Or do you only judge a player by his box scores and how he compares to players from the same draft year (a weak year to boot)?

A small one-dimensional forward who contributes nothing beyond his pedestrian point at a ~0.6 PPG rate. Watch him backcheck in his own zone and you can see what a joke of a player he is. You can say he's bad because he's part of a bad team, but as the current 2C and a veteran among most of the forwards, Gagner is more the cause than the effect of this team's awfulness.

If King is on the table, then I'd make the deal happen, even if it means retaining some salary. Better yet, trade Gagner to the Canucks so we can sabotage their chances of making the playoffs next year.

SO the thesis of your argument is that the Oilers are bad because Gagner is on the team. Ok, so have you checked to see what our record was before he returned at the end of October? We must have been doing great! Oh right, we were 3-10. Our record suggests we were better with him. I appreciate the fact that you are trying to fit in with this very fashionable 'Gagner as the source of all of our problems' thing but it is just getting very old. It is plain to see he has had some VERY bad games. Getzlaf had a very bad season. Ovechkin had a very bad season. Am I equating them with Gagner? No. I am comparing the scenarios of turning on a 1.0 PPG player because of one bad season and turning on a 0.6 PPG player because of one bad season. It is the same thing and it is stupid in both cases. Gagner is worth A LOT more more than Clifford. Period. He may not fit on our team because of all the other players we have that bring the same thing...sure. But let's not drive this guy out of town because of this meme that is dominating the collective Oiler mind.

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#223 Chris
February 07 2014, 01:07AM
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Too bad we didn't trade Gagner after his 8 point night.

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#224 Spydyr
February 07 2014, 07:29AM
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Zarny wrote:

John Tavares is a career -43. Hopefully he never wears an Oilers jersey either I guess.

Ovechkin is currently -19 for the season. I suppose you'd be disappointed if the Oilers acquired him too?

You just compared Gagner to Tavares and Ovechkin.

Let that sink in a bit.

If you cannot tell which one does not belong with the other two, well you made everything you have ever said here irrelevant.

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#225 pkam
February 07 2014, 08:49AM
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Spydyr wrote:

You just compared Gagner to Tavares and Ovechkin.

Let that sink in a bit.

If you cannot tell which one does not belong with the other two, well you made everything you have ever said here irrelevant.

In case you have problem getting the message from Zarny's post, he means +/- has very little to do to a player's value. And he is responding to you trashing Gagner's poor +/-.

Kovalchuk probably has the worst career +/-. How many NHL teams would love to sign him. Did Team Russian ever left him out because of his poor +/- status?

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#226 Spydyr
February 07 2014, 08:51AM
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pkam wrote:

In case you have problem getting the message from Zarny's post, he means +/- has very little to do to a player's value. And he is responding to you trashing Gagner's poor +/-.

Kovalchuk probably has the worst career +/-. How many NHL teams would love to sign him. Did Team Russian ever left him out because of his poor +/- status?

It is asinine to compare plus minus from players on different teams.

Hall career -12 Gagner career-58

46 point difference

If you cannot tell Gagner is not good defensively nothing anyone can say will change that.

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#227 Johnny
February 07 2014, 10:24AM
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I doubt that deals between teams don't happen in isolation. If they do, fire the entire front office.

If the Oilers are indeed serious about trading Gagner to LA, then it has to work for both sides. This season is a write-off, so putting Arco at 2C for the rest of the season is meaningless -- except it gives him a serious NHL audition at top-6.

If they trade Gagner, they have a plan for a 2C replacement and it's not likely a "hope and pray that Arco steps up" kind of plan. So let's assume that they have a plan to fill 2C with an actual 2C, either through trade or FA.

With that assumption, the Oilers need: 1) Defense 2) Experience 3) Size and "truculence"

If trading Gagner to LA means that they take back King or Clifford (preferably King) and one of Regehr or Mitchell, that helps the oilers accomplish 3 of 3 on their goal list.

King and Clifford are both bigger bodies who play physical brand of hockey.

Regehr and Mitchell are both experienced and reliable D-men who can play a shutdown game (and PK time) and provide a veteran presence in a very young D-corps in Edmonton. Think of the contributions that Adrian Aucoin made to PHX when they signed him at 36. He spend 3 years playing solid hockey while tutoring OEL and Yandle.

Chances of Sutter wanting to trade Regehr are low, but Lombardi might see it differently.

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#228 pkam
February 07 2014, 11:24AM
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Spydyr wrote:

It is asinine to compare plus minus from players on different teams.

Hall career -12 Gagner career-58

46 point difference

If you cannot tell Gagner is not good defensively nothing anyone can say will change that.

Where did I say Gagner is good defensively?

If you think it is asinine to compare +/- from players on different teams, lets compare +/- from players on same team:

Yakupov -33 in less than 2 season, Sam -68 in 7+ season. So who is worse? So Yakupov has even less value than Gagner?

Leafs: Kessel -37, Bozak -38, Lupul - 54, Kulemin -3, so Kessel, Bozak, and Lupul are not good defensively, do you think Kessel, Bozak, and Lupul worth nothing?

Islanders: Taveres -43, Nielsen -5, Nielsen is obviously better defensively than Taveres so perhaps the Islanders should let Taveres go and keep Nielsen?

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#229 S cottV
February 07 2014, 11:51AM
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I think with the right complimentary players around him, Gagner can play at a high level in the league.

The one place he really stuggles is as the low support forward in d zone coverage. This is partly due to physical size but also lacks in awareness for what is going on around him, defensively in his own zone. You would think this is something he could learn, but - it's been quite a few years and he often looks like a raw rookie in this area.

So - play him with a couple of bigger wingers, one of which being a guy who can play in the middle - as well, taking faceoffs in the d zone and operating as the low support defensive forward. Gretzky often had wingers who covered off the d zone for him.

In general - if Gagner plays with 4 other guys who are particularly strong at forward zone play, he should do pretty well. Sutter would be a good coach for him, providing a sound structure and having Gagner provide some opportunistic scoring.

Sutter could also take a round out of him, if he doesn't dummy up with better two way play, as part of the process.

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#230 Spencer
February 09 2014, 01:49PM
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Perron. Hall and Ebs are the 3 players you do not want to trade. A Dwight King between Hall and Ebs or 2 line between Perron and ? would be dominant. RNH can bounce between 1st and 2nd line.

Sam G, Ales H and Yak are all great trading pieces to acquire 2 power forwards and a solid D man. All new acquisitions should be 6'1 and 215 pounds +. You could also toss in N Shultz, Potter and Petry. Keep AF, MF, JS, AB, PL. Aquire 2 other good big D men. Larson could also be used as a 2nd or 3rd line wingers. He is another guy that is smart and clutch skater.

Arco could be used as a trade or 4th line center. Perron and Arco have played with the most heart this year. Try Gazdic on the blue line or keep him as the enforcer with great skating skill.

The future of the Oilers are Hall, Ebs, Perron, Gazdic, Gordon, Arco, Marcininn, J Shultz(Mabye), Belov, Ference and Joensuu(providing he gets more physical) and a few others. I think Gazdic is a diamond in the rough.

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