PENNIES ON THE DOLLAR

Robin Brownlee
May 05 2014 02:41PM

Craig MacTavish2

Garage sales are terrific for buyers with a sharp eye for a bargain and the ability to sort through junk that's destined for the landfill and find something useful for pennies on the dollar.

They're not so great for sellers for the same reason – you bundle up a bunch of stuff you thought you wanted or needed and paid perfectly good money for not so long ago, throw it out on tables beside the family Buick and grind away trying to recoup as much money as you can.

Something, say a dime on the dollar, is probably better than nothing for the home haircut kit or Zamfir Pan Flute CD collection the little woman bought on the Home Shopping Channel, but a loss is a loss is a loss.

The way I see it, this off-season is shaping up much like that for Edmonton Oilers GM Craig MacTavish, who is going to have to sell-off players at less than 100 cents on the dollar if he wants to gather the pieces he needs to fill-in holes on his roster and re-shape his hockey team.

POSITION OF WEAKNESS

89-Gagner-7

With a 28th-place finish in the books, the Oilers out of the playoffs for an eighth straight season and fans rightfully expecting significant improvement moving forward, it does not take a vast intellect to understand MacTavish is not dealing from a position of strength.

So, what does MacTavish have to offer? Everybody, it seems, wants Sam Gagner gone. I get that. Some fans are of the mind they're willing to take a chance and part with Nail Yakupov if he'll land MacTavish what he needs. I get that, somewhat reluctantly, as well.

That said, what is Gagner, who is coming off a season in which he struggled mightily to recover from a broken jaw and produced 10-27-37 in 67 games, going to get MacTavish in return? A whole lot of next-to-nothing, that's what.

Nail Yakupov

What about Yakupov, 20, who finished the 2012-13 season red-hot but went ice-cold under Dallas Eakins, managing just 11-13-24 in 63 games before an ankle injury put him out? Is there any way at all MacTavish gets anything resembling fair value for Yakupov now? No.

WHAT TO DO?

57-Perron-9

Let's forget the bargain table for a second and look at the primo stuff behind the counter. Is MacTavish willing to part with any of the pieces of his core – Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle or maybe David Perron – to get what he needs? What's the return for them? What about the third overall draft pick?

There isn't a GM in the NHL with a functioning brain stem who doesn't know MacTavish is in a bind. Even if he's willing to move one of his core players or the draft pick to make a splash, and I'm not so sure he should, he's not going to get fair value. While there are a handful of have-not GMs in the same boat as MacTavish, most have considerably more leverage.

How about a package deal? Maybe, but MacTavish can't offer up a bunch of junk – hey, how about a five-for-one deal for a top-two defenseman? – and expect to get anything of significance in return. No chance. No way.

So, barring the possibility of finding a gem or two via free agency in a thin crop of UFAs this summer -- and overpaying for them -- how does MacTavish significantly re-shape this team between now and training camp without getting fleeced by a savvy buyer? He doesn't.

Pennies on the dollar. 

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

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
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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#51 kdunbar
May 05 2014, 09:19PM
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Sean17 wrote:

Your right side depth chart looks like a casting call for the Wizard of OZ Lollipop Kids...

While it may be true, it probably puts Gagner in a place where he can succeed. Centre is not the position that Gagner should play.

And then as Lowetide stated in an earlier article, we need to add...

1) 2C centre 2) Gritty LW whop can play 2/3 line*

* That could also be the RW position if Yak moves to the Left side.

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#52 Woogie6:
May 05 2014, 09:34PM
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I think MacT should look at trades this way.

Trade from three cluster of players, where we have depth.

1) Fast forwards who can score 50-100 points

Hall, RNH, Eberle, Perron, Ganger, Yukapov

2) under 25 year old Defenseman that can play 20 minutes a night

Shultz, Petry, Klefblom, Marincin

3) Minor leaguer that can help your AHL team and added short term NHL depth

Lander, Gernat, Musil, Davidson, Fedun

Every team in the league can add one or two of these clutters to make their team stronger...

If you can't improve the players, you need to improve the off ice organizational team.

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#53 Jow
May 05 2014, 09:51PM
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Sam Gagner for Adam Larsson

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#54 OilFan96
May 05 2014, 10:08PM
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sign heatley, moss, and greene. trade klefbom/marincin (I'd say Klefbom cus Marincin can play now and is still young) and a 3rd for Coburn and Hartnell. Then you'll have 2 wingers who can play 2nd or 3rd if Yak is playing inconsistently. Also trade a pick or a prospect to get brodziak back and Gagner and prospect for Patrik Berglund. Then you'll have a forward crop of skill, grit, and pick contro. 13F: Hall, RNH, Eberle, Perron, Berglund, Yakupov, Heatley, Brodziak, Hartnell, Hendricks, Gordon, Moss, and then Gazdic. Defence would be pretty solid as well with defensive minded d man in Coburn, Ference, and Greene. Puck moving defenceman in Schultz, Petry, and Marincin. I'd say Larsen or Fraser can stay as the 7th dman

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#55 2004Z06
May 05 2014, 10:55PM
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Has everyone forgotten that Gagner has a NTC that kicks in July 1st? Waiting for him to increase his trade value means you can't trade him.

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#56 Will
May 05 2014, 11:05PM
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THE MYTHICAL SECOND LINE CENTRE:

Bigger, better, cheaper - pick 2 because in the entire league, only two second line centers had more points this year, had better points per game this year*, have more career points per game, and come cheaper than Sam Gagner. Those two people are Derek Stepan and Vincent Lecaviallier*

*Lecaviallier actually had a worse ppg this year with the exact same amount of point as Gagner, but I'm giving him the pass because he's Lecaviallier.

I've compiled a chart of every team'ssecond line centre* and this idea that there that every team has a more productive, cheaper, and bigger second line C is a complete myth, as is the idea that Mac T can't get any value for Gagner. The stats I went by are admittedly not advanced stats, but they are likely the first things a GM would look at before advanced stuff and say a lot about a false perception by fans, and how teams have gone about acquiring this mythical creature.

*some teams due to trade or injuries made it difficult to determine who was their second line C. In that case I went with the centre that gave that team the best possible outlook next to Gagner and the Oilers.

Amongst team's second line C's Gagner ranks 13th in the league for career PPG. Everyone ahead of him - unlike a lot of teams - have a second line C with at least 200 games under their belts. Of those guys, only Lecaviallier, Kadri, Stepan, and Roy are cheaper. But Roy will be a UFA this year, Kadri had to swallow that bridge contract because Toronto was capped, Lecaviallier will be like 39 when his deal runs out. Stepan, will be an RFA next summer and contribute to a large cap problem for NY.

Some other interesting things to note, only 7 second line C's in the league were acquired through trade. They were, Perreault, Stall, Dubinsky, Eakin, Carter, Turris, and Riberio. Of the 6, only Stall, Dubinsky, and Carter are bigger, they all cost way more, and only Cater looks like a decent trade on return, although it might be argued the Nash trade was good for Columbus.

Only 5 were acquired via free agency: Lecaviallier, Roy, Filppula, Grabovski, and Jokenin. Of them it's a mixed bag where Lecavialler and Roy look ok in terms of career points, and production from last year. But Roy is a free agent and is listed at 5"9 and 184, and costs more, and got the same points as Gagner this year in more games.

18 of all the second line C's in the entire league were drafted by the franchise they still play for, and of those 8 have yet to play more than 200 games, and 7 are still on their rookie contracts.

Not surprising, Malkin leads all second line C's in career PPG, PPG this year, and just overall points this last year. But he's also the most expensive cap hit, getting bumped up to 9.5 a year next year forever ever. He's also not the biggest, although it's TSN so... take the sizes with a grain of salt.

Now it's true not much of this info has to do with more important info like quality of line mates, the type of competition faced, face off wins, if they're gritty or can work on the PK, but that's the point right? Most of the second line C's are not that big, but they play a certain way, or play on teams like Boston and have Chara and Rask covering their asses.

Gagner is not the biggest, cheapest, or most skilled second line C in the league, but he is far from the worst of these categories as well.

So what is this telling me? A few things. First that I'm just some blogger with too much time on his hands, NHL GM's get paid and have teams looking at this stuff. And if they even scratch the tip of the ice burg I don't think it's tough to see at least one or two GM's think, hey, if this guy plays with some bigger wingers and a better defense, I bet he could be a real diamond in the rough. Others might just think, meh, I'm fine at that position. But I can't see Mac T just giving Ganger up for nothing. And if he does that will be a big fail unless he signs Legwand or Stasny.

Second, that it's tough to see Gagner's play knowing the goalie, defense, leadership, management, and coaching situation he's had to go through to get here. How can all of that not affect a guy? And after all of that, he wanted to freakin stay in Edmonton. He's never demanded a trade or said a bad word about the organization. In fact he asked for a NT clause so he could put these rumors behind him. How are we running this guy out of town?

Third, that to balance the top six, Mac T is gonna have a tough ass time upgrading on the second line C position. It's not popular, but I think he could do much better trying to get better wingers for Gagner to play with instead. Then using either Yak or Perron to help acquire something on defense.

Fourth, Zetterberg, even for all the praise he gets, has to be the most underrated and frankly underpaid player in the game. On that note, Detroit always gets praised for their draft ability; but Shaw on Chicago was drafted in the 5th round. Chicago has consistently made some unreal picks to surround the super stars they also drafted.

Finally, unless Mact T is getting either Legwand or Stasny (not likely), trading Gagner would not be smart. He'd be better served moving hell and earth to better the defense and if he absolutely has to make a move, picking up some better wingers for Gagner to play with.

I would love to give this excel file to someone to make a Sledge Hammer where the x and y axis are points per game and price, the size of the balloon is equal to the size of the man, and their color denotes drafted, acquired through trade, or acquired through free agency. Suddenly this idea of a second line centre becomes a lot different and more complex than "we need to get bigger, we need to get better, blah blah blah."

Sorry for the super long post.

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#57 Woogie63
May 05 2014, 11:13PM
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2004Z06 wrote:

Has everyone forgotten that Gagner has a NTC that kicks in July 1st? Waiting for him to increase his trade value means you can't trade him.

We have traded;

Gilbert and got Shultz

Horcoff and got Larson

Smid and got ...um...maybe...

Hemsky and got two draft picks

If I could undo these trades we would be a better hockey team

The latest whipping boys are Petry and Gagner...lets me smarter here.

We have a long history of running people out of town going back to the Doug Berry days

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#58 Quicksilver ballet
May 05 2014, 11:17PM
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2004Z06 wrote:

Has everyone forgotten that Gagner has a NTC that kicks in July 1st? Waiting for him to increase his trade value means you can't trade him.

A NTC doesn't mean what you think it means. It only means the player has input/control as to where he goes in a trade. It does not mean he can't be traded.

Lets face it, one part of him can't wait to get out of here fast enough. He would welcome a trade, especially if he has input as to where his options are. He'll land on his feet rather nicely and not miss Edmonton at all.

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#59 Woogie63
May 05 2014, 11:20PM
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Woogie63 wrote:

We have traded;

Gilbert and got Shultz

Horcoff and got Larson

Smid and got ...um...maybe...

Hemsky and got two draft picks

If I could undo these trades we would be a better hockey team

The latest whipping boys are Petry and Gagner...lets me smarter here.

We have a long history of running people out of town going back to the Doug Berry days

I thought about it a second... We had two Doug Berry hockey players

The college kid...

And Doug Barrie ...that was the guy that started all this running out of town stuff

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#60 Jofa
May 05 2014, 11:22PM
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This season, the Toronto Raptors traded Rudy Gay, their most skilled player at the time, for what many considered to be pennies on the dollar... In hindsight, it was the catalyst they needed to shake up the team, change the culture and break out of the cycle of mediocrity.

Are we going to get a great return for Gagner or Yak right now? Probably not, but based on what we've seen so far, are these players the Oil need right now? Are the players we want to build around going forward? If we're holding onto them just in the hopes of getting a better deal down the road, are their values likely to significantly improve next season? The season after?

I think the core of this team has become fragile and complacent, and clearly a culture of losing has settled in. I don't see this group, with tweaks around the edges, as one that will be able to collectively take the next step together. There are some key pieces I'd want the Oilers to build around, but I really can't see how trading a few of the smaller "skill" players could make them any worse, especially if they could replace them with a few character / sandpaper type players.

The culture and core of this team needs a shake-up, or they'll just continue spinning until the window of opportunity for this group passes by completely.

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#61 1979
May 05 2014, 11:52PM
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Agreed RB! Honestly, everybody needs to adjust expectations and quit feeling entitled to a better team. Not because we shouldn't have one, but because all it does it put pressure on management to make dumb moves and makes us all unhappier! Mac-T is clearly not Tambellini! He will continue to make moves that IMO will more often be Scrivens and Perron moves with a little bit of Ference and Hendricks type moves then the plethora of horrible moves made by Tambo! If nobody hits the panic button we have a shot. If somebody does then we will continue to live in this nightmare! And please, please everybody stop trying to trade away Marincin! Unless we are getting a bona fide top D-man in his prime it is a huge mistake!!

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#62 WhattaMike
May 06 2014, 12:39AM
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I was just looking at potential UFA's and saw three that can make the Oilers a bit better now and....the Oil can get them without both....too huge of overpayments and/or trading away the #3 over-all for this year.

Nikitin (D-UFA-Columbus), Greene (D-UFA-LA), and Moss (UFA-Pho) can each to all help the Oilers "START" to get much better/tougher.

The Oil then can still go for any one of Eckblad, Reinhart, Draisaitl, or Bennett.

A possible type line-up would start to shape up with Forwards - Hall/RNH/Perron...Yak/Gagner???Eberle...Horak/Gordon/Moss..Hendricks/Arcobello/Gazdic or Pitlick...

Defence - Petry/Marancin...Nikitin/Schultz then Greene/Ference.

Even then...the Oil can still look at trading Gagner, and/or Yak (if necessary) in packages by July 1st so as to upgrade further.

this was just an opening thought for the vsummer...But to the Oilers...please...most of all...JUST DONT DO ANYTHING STUPID ANYMORE - LIKE TAMBO DID!!!!!!!!

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#63 Dave
May 06 2014, 07:53AM
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@Will

On your list how many second line centers have the second worst plus minus rating on the team and are not very good in the face off ?

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#64 A-Mc
May 06 2014, 09:06AM
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@Will

I applaud the effort! Good work.

Interestingly enough, you said that 7 top 2c's are in their rookie season. I wonder how many of those went straight to the NHL after the draft

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#65 Will
May 06 2014, 09:27AM
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I see what you're getting at and I don't disagree with you. In fact I'm not a big Gagner supporter. However, the person with the worst plus minus on the team was on Gagner's wing for a lot of the season. It's the guy's 5th coach in 7 years? And he got cracked in the jaw in pre season.

You have identified why Gagner is a problem. He's bad in his own end, and he has trouble winning faceoffs. Okay, why is that. Most people will say it's because he's either too small or not good enough. What I'm saying is that no other team has a guy making Gagner money that is bigger and better except 1. So what I'm saying is complaining about it is irrelevant, because no better option in the league exists.

I'm also saying that to say he has no value because of a season like the last one implies that GM's are as stupid as quick reaction fans.

With what Mac T will have to work with this summer, a trade seems like the best option. But on my chart, Mathieu Perreault, who is arguably losing his job to Nick Bonino, is maybe the best example of how to acquire one of these guys. Anaheim got him out of Washinton for almost nothing. The kid was drafted in 2006 in the sixth round. But, he's 5"10 and 185 and due for a big raise this year. So is that better than what we have? At best I'd say it's lateral.

Personally, I think the best thing Mac T can do to upgrade at second line C is to either do what practically every team has done and draft the guy. Or, find a player whose being used in a way that doesn't suite their play style, and is crooking their numbers, ala Perron. I mean at the beginning of the year you probably could have gotten nick Bonino for nothing, and now look at him. Mac T is going to have to find a guy like that, and that is always a huge gamble. Just like how we don't need Weber, we need the next Weber, I don't think we need Getzlaf, we need the next Getzlaf.

Either that or we have to change the winger. It looks like they put the two worst defensive people on the team on the same line. How does that help? And as for plus minus as a stat, do you know who was the worst in the league this year? 50 goal scorer Alex Ovechkin. Does that mean he's a bad player? No it means he's a specific type of player.

Anyway, I just wanted to look at salary, size, and production, and in those 3 categories, Gagner is around the middle of the league. So all I'm saying is be carful what we wish for, because the alternative is Mark Arcabello.

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#66 Will
May 06 2014, 09:30AM
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A-Mc wrote:

I applaud the effort! Good work.

Interestingly enough, you said that 7 top 2c's are in their rookie season. I wonder how many of those went straight to the NHL after the draft

Apologies, I miss spoke. What I meant was that 7 number 2 C's are still on their rookie contracts. Meaning they aren't getting paid much now, but will in very short order. 9 of these guys have not cracked the 200 game mark.

I wish I could put the chart up, because it's really interesting to look at. I'm hoping Willis sees my post and does something a bit more comprehensive for 1st line C, second line C, and third line C's in the league. As another myth I would like to debunk is that Gordon should be a fourth line centre. In terms of production he's not far off from the Pens third line C, and plays way, way, way tougher minutes.

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#67 The artist formerly known as Harry
May 06 2014, 10:19AM
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Jofa wrote:

This season, the Toronto Raptors traded Rudy Gay, their most skilled player at the time, for what many considered to be pennies on the dollar... In hindsight, it was the catalyst they needed to shake up the team, change the culture and break out of the cycle of mediocrity.

Are we going to get a great return for Gagner or Yak right now? Probably not, but based on what we've seen so far, are these players the Oil need right now? Are the players we want to build around going forward? If we're holding onto them just in the hopes of getting a better deal down the road, are their values likely to significantly improve next season? The season after?

I think the core of this team has become fragile and complacent, and clearly a culture of losing has settled in. I don't see this group, with tweaks around the edges, as one that will be able to collectively take the next step together. There are some key pieces I'd want the Oilers to build around, but I really can't see how trading a few of the smaller "skill" players could make them any worse, especially if they could replace them with a few character / sandpaper type players.

The culture and core of this team needs a shake-up, or they'll just continue spinning until the window of opportunity for this group passes by completely.

Great reference. Another usefull reference would be CBJ. They traded their franchise player and a year later became a much better more well rounded team.

Im not sugesting EDM trades Hall but there are others on the roster who could bring back 2-3 very usefull roster players.

I would package Gagner with one of Yak/Ebs/3rd pick and bring in a couple useful 2/3 rd liners.

Status quo is not the answer

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#68 Bubba
May 06 2014, 10:27AM
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Keep Gagnier.... You will get more for him next year when the team is performing better as a whole and his stats improve.... For now, make him 3rd line center or something. Or 4th... Or send him to OKC. Are we that tight on cap space that he needs flushing right now when his value is lowest?

Same with Yaks.... There is talent there, just need a little time.

I'm getting sick of watching us trade away players, only to watch them evolve with another team....

Here's hoping we can pull what the Av's did with Seth Jones and turn over a draft pick or trade- quickly into a starting player- center, in our case... (don't think Ekblad will be available when we pick, so defense is unlikely).

At least with Scrivvie in net and Fasth to back him up to start next season, we should be able to show improvement over the start to last year, at least...

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#69 The artist formerly known as Harry
May 06 2014, 10:32AM
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Woogie63 wrote:

We have traded;

Gilbert and got Shultz

Horcoff and got Larson

Smid and got ...um...maybe...

Hemsky and got two draft picks

If I could undo these trades we would be a better hockey team

The latest whipping boys are Petry and Gagner...lets me smarter here.

We have a long history of running people out of town going back to the Doug Berry days

With Gilbert Horcoff Smid and Hemsky EDM was a last place team.

Upgrades were and still are essential

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#70 David S
May 06 2014, 12:28PM
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@Will

Nice job Will.

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#71 Will
May 06 2014, 12:36PM
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David S wrote:

Nice job Will.

Wow thanks. It was both refreshing to see that comparatively Gagner is not some league wide black sheep. But it was also disheartening to see what it takes other teams to get a high end second line C.

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#72 Dave
May 06 2014, 01:32PM
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I too appreciate Will's effort.

If Gagner continues to perform poorly next year, I hope they do the right thing and send him to OKC.

As between Gagner and Arco , let us have a fair competition.

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#73 Pucker
May 06 2014, 01:32PM
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@Will

Nice Post Will. From what I understand, he does have a great attitude and he is talented. It's not good to give up on this combination, but he can be a frustration to watch at times (many times).

I do hope they pick up a competent centre for the second line next season and Gagner gets a good look at playing wing.

Maybe, at this point in his career, a good 50-80 games on the wing would help improve his game at centre.

I keep thinking of Cliff Ronning. He was an effective small centre and Sam does have the tool kit to be as good, or better.

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#74 David S
May 06 2014, 05:15PM
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We joke all the time about WONGER getting his own column, but it'd be cool to have a guest spot once a week or so for guys like Will. This is a pro blogger site so you could call it "The Amateur Hour". There's alot of guys out there who might put down some good stuff if given half a chance.

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#75 David S
May 06 2014, 05:15PM
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David S wrote:

We joke all the time about WONGER getting his own column, but it'd be cool to have a guest spot once a week or so for guys like Will. This is a pro blogger site so you could call it "The Amateur Hour". There's alot of guys out there who might put down some good stuff if given half a chance.

And no, I'm not talking about "Serious Gord".

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#76 Will
May 06 2014, 06:04PM
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David S wrote:

We joke all the time about WONGER getting his own column, but it'd be cool to have a guest spot once a week or so for guys like Will. This is a pro blogger site so you could call it "The Amateur Hour". There's alot of guys out there who might put down some good stuff if given half a chance.

That be sweet. I sent the chart to Bagged Milk already who was gonna pass it along, but I'd love to take a crack at it.

If not, then keep up the good work and have a good day.

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#77 Casey
May 06 2014, 06:20PM
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Only way I would keep Gags if he was put on 3rd RW with a way lower contract while he gained 20+ ibs and worked on defense

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