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 Show me da Money
February 06 2014, 07:06AM
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I think Gagner is gone before the end of the season. With his no trade clause coming into effect can anyone convince me that MacT wants to have him around for two more years taking up a roster spot?

JW, if your only two choices are worse and worser which one do you pick?

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#202 camdog
February 06 2014, 07:58AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Because they had a stretch where they scored three goals in six games.

As for who makes it up, that would be Dean Lombardi, unless you think Elliotte Friedman was lying through his teeth.

Dean Lombardi, is that the same guy that got into that nasty fight with the Oilers a few years back?

A few years back Lombardi got all hot and bothered over Hemsky and ended up with Penner. This season the talk will be Gags and they will end up with Hemsky. Of course that's if they can't get anybody else first.

Seen this soap opera once before...

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#203 Tim in Kelowna
February 06 2014, 08:31AM
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For once I agree with JW, at least on one point. I like Clifford and Nolan, and they have more upside than Willis suggests, but a team weak down the middle trading their 2nd line centre for a winger makes no sense.

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#204 Puck JammeR!
February 06 2014, 09:02AM
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gagner for stoll and greene

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#205 oprah sucks
February 06 2014, 09:10AM
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everyone talks about kings limited cap space and the possibility of oilers getting muzzin. well take one look at his contract and it doesnt take a genius to figure out that muzzin isnt goin anywhere. one very possible candidate for the oilers would be and is mat green because of his contract status and he is due for a raise in salary which la does not want to deal with and possibly lose green for nothing.

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#206 Jordan Nugent-Hallkins
February 06 2014, 09:13AM
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St Louis draws in for Stamkos. Glad the old guy gets one last Olympics, leaving him off the team was a mistake to begin with.

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#207 ubermiguel
February 06 2014, 09:17AM
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Serious Gord wrote:

First let's get some facts agreed upon:

Signing gagner was a big mistake by MacT.

Trading gagner - like trading Horcoff - gets this mistake out of view and thus remarkably out of the memories of many oilers fans.

MacT overvalues many of his assets - none more so than gagner (hemsky and dubnyk aren't far behind). Thus he will struggle to move him.

As for the return from LA; gagner could indeed work out better there than he does here because of the supporting cast he would be with in LA being able to cover his manifold deficiencies. Ditto the players the oil might get in return. Scoring stats simply don't tell the whole story.

In sum, gagner has negative value. That means the oil will get negative value back or have to carry a big chunk of his salary for the rest its term. And he is not the only negative value player that this team has...

Dubnyk for Hendricks was overvaluing him?

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#208 Al77
February 06 2014, 11:05AM
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I just hope at this point if Sam is going to L.A that it is for King and not Clifford which is being reported or speculated at this moment!

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#209 A-Mc
February 06 2014, 11:08AM
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Jordan Nugent-Hallkins wrote:

I think PIMs don't tell the whole story with the Oilers. They take a lot of stick infractions because they're not moving their feet. Plus I wouldn't be surprised if fully half of Hall's penalties were unsportsmanlikes for beaking at the ref.

You're right, it's not even close to telling the whole story. But even as a remote indicator of any kind of grit, King doesnt have any.

Look at Perron as an example. Perron has the perfect grit and compete that we need, we just need more of him in bigger frames. He's sitting in 2nd for PIMs on the Oil.. Under a fighter.

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#210 Zamboni Driver
February 06 2014, 11:08AM
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@A-Mc

Okay, Gagner will score more probably.

Don't you think the Oilers need something slightly different from what they have?

Because they have a LOT of the same thing.

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#211 Zamboni Driver
February 06 2014, 11:37AM
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@Serious Gord

...shooting against a big tall goalie with no lateral movement, but is a really nice guy that all the players and media in Albany really love.

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#212 Lochenzo
February 06 2014, 11:57AM
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I think some of you are undervaluing secondary scoring. All Stanley Cup champs have secondary scoring. We know Sam Gagner can bring a decent amount of secondary scoring and if you have a 1st and 2nd line that can score at a decent clip, it would mask the problem of your 3rd and 4th lines not scoring.

I'd rather keep all of my trading chips until I know I have acquired a top 2 Dman. Then use what you have left to address other needs.

My priority list based upon urgency: 1) top 2 Dman 2) Goal (Scrivens?) 3) better two-way centre, hopefully with decent size. 4) size on wing.

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#213 A-Mc
February 06 2014, 12:02PM
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Lochenzo wrote:

I think some of you are undervaluing secondary scoring. All Stanley Cup champs have secondary scoring. We know Sam Gagner can bring a decent amount of secondary scoring and if you have a 1st and 2nd line that can score at a decent clip, it would mask the problem of your 3rd and 4th lines not scoring.

I'd rather keep all of my trading chips until I know I have acquired a top 2 Dman. Then use what you have left to address other needs.

My priority list based upon urgency: 1) top 2 Dman 2) Goal (Scrivens?) 3) better two-way centre, hopefully with decent size. 4) size on wing.

Exactly.

And how many times has "Shuffling deck chairs" been brought up to describe Oiler trades with 3rd/4th line guys. Gagner for more deck chairs can't be part of the solution..

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#214 Cowbell_Feva
February 06 2014, 02:06PM
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This could be a classic case of an Oiler going elsewhere and becoming grabbing a Cup ring. Gagner could be one of the best producing 2nd line centers in the league if the Kings play him with some of their big dogs. It's something he doesn't have here in Edmonton.

Saying that, his numbers are what they are, and his faceoffs and defensive ineptitudes are very real, so to my mind, no matter what, the Oilers may lose the trade due to the fact that he is almost guaranteed to do better in LA.

However, gaining a big body (I would hope for Toffoli or King) that could play top 6 in Edmonton would very quickly change the whole dynamic of the Oilers forwards. No more would opposition defenseman have the luxury of easily pushing the small kids around and not have a net presence, outside the 4th line. Intangibles that win hockey games.

Definetly not a solution to the defensive issues, but a good start in my opinion. P.S. Kyle Clifford was a guy I wish the Oilers would have pursued a lot harder as a Free Agent this past summer. He signed for just over $1 mill/per. To trade Gagner for him just doesn't make sense, when you could have had him for as little as he signed for in L.A.

Hope MacT knows what he's doing.

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#215 Serious Gord
February 06 2014, 02:16PM
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Spydyr wrote:

Funny Hall is a career -12.That is a long ways form Gagners -58

This is the first you have mentioned a negative player being considered good - "Getting a player back that scores less, but is constantly a plus player helps the team more."

Yes, relative plus minus ON THE SAME team is relevant and worthy of comparison. Between teams the usefulness as a comparative stat is far less and in many cases misleading rather than informative.

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#216 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
February 06 2014, 02:48PM
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King or Clifford is risky business in that average players can look good on a good well coached team. And then look like crap on a team like the Oilers.

No way the deal is Clifford for Gagner straight up. It would be Clifford and a pick or prospect. So the real question in the potential LA deal is are you good with trading proven NHL talent for a lesser talent and future prospects? Or do you pray that MacT can get back established talent for established talent somewhere else?

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#217 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
February 06 2014, 02:53PM
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On a secondary note, the Oilers have four basic needs the priority of which changes slightly over time but includes, Two-way play making centre, 1-2 Dman, #1 Goalie, Toughness/Grit.

We only have so many chips to use to get the four things. Do we really want to use one of our top 3 trading chips in Gagner for a return that does not address Center, D, or Goalie?

I want Gagner gone and I want tougher more gritty players but there is an opportunity cost if we don't utilize the Gagner chip (combined with other chips) to fill one of our gaping holes.

It really depends on managements view of what they think is possible at the deadline, in free agency, and in the summer trade market.

But of course, as usual, we are a bit hand cuffed with the no trade clause in Gags new contract. We may be forced to move him sooner than is optimal.

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#218 A-Mc
February 06 2014, 02:56PM
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@Serious Gord

ok so do you sell your 10,000 car and then bus it to work while paying off the remaining 5k? or do you keep it and sit on it until the money makes sense?

Also, appreciation on that 10k car (Player) is quite good and at some point, the assessed value will equal what you're currently paying (Cap going up and players starting to make more $).

Your scenario poorly supports your stance and if anything it gives credit to the group of people who say to keep him.

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#219 pkam
February 06 2014, 03:10PM
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Truth wrote:

2nd line C's

Anaheim - Mathieu Perrault

Buffalo - Cody Hodgson

Calgary - Sean Monohan/Matt Stajan

Chicago - Michael Handzus

Columbus - Artem Anisimov

Dallas - Cody Eakin

Florida - Nick Bjustad

Minnesota - Charlie Coyle (1st) Granlund (2)

Montreal - David Desharnais

Nashville - David Legwand

New Jersey - Travis Zajac

NYI - Frans Nielsen (career year)

Philadelphia - Brayden Schenn

Phoenix - Martin Hanzal

Toronto - Bozak/Kadri

Washington - Casey Wellman

Winnipeg - Mark Scheifele

I have not included the obvious ones (Det, Pit,LA) because Gagner would not be a 2C there, but you can make the case that a healthy Gagner is a better player than all of the above.

Detroit just signed Steven Weiss this offseason to 5 years @4.9M per. He is 30 so he is not going to get any better, most likely going downhill in a couple of years.. So far 4 pts and -4 in 26 games this year.

You don't think they would take Gagner 4.8M 3 years contract over Weiss?

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#220 Rod from Viking
February 06 2014, 03:31PM
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Serious Gord wrote:

He will be a distant memory but still drawing a paycheck oct '15.

That may be long enough but I'm thinking October 16 and then joining the coaching staff(lol)

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#221 Slapschtick
February 06 2014, 03:33PM
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Just because TSN says gagner doesn't make it so... It's Hemmer that's going with Clifford coming back, but that's just my opinion

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#222 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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#223 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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#224 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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#225 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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#226 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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#227 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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#228 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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#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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