Gagner for Kulikov: Who Says ‘No’?

Jonathan Willis
June 19 2014 02:43PM

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Sam Gagner has been a fixture on the rumour mill for years for good reason, and plays for a team that desperately needs help on the back end, but the Edmonton Oilers are going to have trouble getting fair value for him.

Dmitri Kulikov has been a fixture on the rumour mill for years for good reason, and plays for a team that desperately needs help up front, but the Florida Panthers are going to have trouble getting fair value for him.

I'm just speculating, but might there be a deal to be made there?

Gagner

The story on Gagner is well-known in Edmonton. The sixth overall pick in the 2007 Draft is at an all-time low in value thanks to a disastrous season in which he went minus-29 and was outplayed by minor-leaguer Mark Arcobello. Despite this, he’s a gifted offensive player and despite a reputation as a defensive problem he hasn’t been nearly as exposed in previous seasons with the Oilers.

Gagner’s been a fairly decent second-line centre for a poor Edmonton club, and could certainly play the kind of role Derrick Brassard played for the Rangers en route to the Stanley Cup Final – that of the No. 3 pivot who centres a somewhat sheltered scoring line.

In the right situation, Gagner could be an awfully useful player, but it increasingly seems like Edmonton isn’t the right situation. Gagner’s size is a sore point on a team that lacks it, and on a team that lacks pure two-way players but has a number of creative scorers his skillset seems somewhat redundant.

The primary difficulty for the Oilers is that while they need help everywhere they really need help on defence, and most teams aren’t going to trade a top-four defenceman for a player who just had the season Gagner did.

Kulikov

Dmitry Kulikov had a rough season in Flordida. The 14th overall pick in the 2009 Draft had his trade value damaged in a year in which his offensive production fell, he posted an ugly minus-26 rating, and was made a healthy scratch by the Panthers’ coaching staff. Despite this, he’s a gifted two-way defenceman and it’s hard to have a decent plus/minus when the goalie behind you has a 0.891 even-strength(!) save percentage (and keep in mind, there’s little evidence defencemen have a decisive influence on save percentage and significant evidence they don't).

Kulikov’s been a pretty decent top-three defenceman for a poor Florida club, and would certainly be a regular even on a much stronger team – it’s hard to see him slotting any lower than No. 5 even on a very deep depth chart.

In the right situation, Kulikov could be an awfully useful player, but it increasingly seems like Florida isn’t the right situation. Not only is there significant evidence that the Panthers are skeptical of Kulikov’s overall value, but he’s a restricted free agent who can threaten to leave for the KHL if they aren’t willing to pay him like they believe in him.

That makes it difficult to trade Kulikov for the offensive help that Florida desperately needs (leading scorer Nick Bjugstad had 38 points). Most teams aren’t going to trade for a maybe top-four defenceman who just had the season Kulikov did and is looking to be paid like a top-four defenceman.

Deal or No Deal?

Craig MacTavish9

I think the Oilers would need to be interested in Kulikov. He checks off a lot of boxes, providing the team with decent size (6’1”, 204 pounds) and adding a left-side puck-moving defenceman who at age 23 has plenty of upside and a track record of decent NHL results. As long as he was open to signing a multi-year deal at less than ridiculous dollars (say three years by $3.5 million), I don’t see why they wouldn’t make that deal. In their shoes, I wouldn’t be averse to adding a sweetener if it got the trade done.

Florida’s perspective is a little more difficult. I think they would need to be interested in Gagner, given the current anemic state of their offence and the fact that their top two centres have a combined 141 games of NHL experience and that there’s basically nothing after them. Gagner’s also only 24 years old and isn’t a bad fit for the age of Florida’s developing core, while simultaneously giving them a boost in the here-and-now. Further, the Panthers face a difficult negotiation with Kulikov and are likely not going to have an easy time attracting free agent centres.

With that said: I personally see Kulikov as a better player than Gagner, and I wonder if the Panthers aren’t hoping to aim a little higher in terms of help up the middle, perhaps as part of the return on a trade involving the No. 1 pick. It’s not a terrible deal, but it isn’t one I’d make in their shoes.

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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#101 Lofty
June 20 2014, 10:33AM
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Zarny wrote:

Yes, great skater and 6'3" 217 lbs.

He shoots left not right.

He won't sign for anything remotely close to $4.75M. More like $2.75M or less.

He had 32 pts in 54 games in 2011-12 but has struggled the last 2 years. It's the right semblance of risk for a team that isn't going to attract UFA's like Markov.

FYI...32 pts is almost half of what Smid has amassed in his entire career (71).

If MacT is the GM that signs him I think its more than $4. I think it would be wise to offer more cash and smaller term to try and get him. 2 years?

The guys a middle aged big body Dman, I think he gets more. Time will tell.

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#102 pkam
June 20 2014, 10:38AM
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Jordan Nugent-Hallkins wrote:

Rangers bought out Richards.

6.67M for another 6 years for a 34 years old on his decline, do they have any options?

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#103 Zarny
June 20 2014, 10:40AM
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Walter Sobchak wrote:

I don’t disagree with that; and I’m not suggesting they do that.

However, MacTavish on more than a couple of occasions has hinted at all three being with the big club, not saying it’s right.

If the Oilers and MacTavish are more concerned with the overall development at the NHL level and not so concerned with standings is it a terrible of an idea the Oiler struggle one more year if you’re MacTavish?

I’m an advocate of sending each one of them back to further develop and maybe MacTavish does do that, but has that really been the Oilers MO over the years?

The Oilers are famous for the sink or swim development program.

I agree sink or swim has been the Oilers' development program and an abysmal failure for every player not named Taylor Hall.

However, I disagree that MacT has hinted at all three being with the big club. In fact, he's hinted at the opposite by saying on numerous occasions that they won't rush their defensive prospects.

Marincin was drafted 4 full seasons ago. He should be on the opening day roster as a 2nd or 3rd pairing D this year. As long as he doesn't have to play against guys like Getzlaf, Toews and Kopitar every shift he should be fine.

Klefbom should start the year in OKC and Nurse should go back to Jr.

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#104 Walter Sobchak
June 20 2014, 11:10AM
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Zarny wrote:

I agree sink or swim has been the Oilers' development program and an abysmal failure for every player not named Taylor Hall.

However, I disagree that MacT has hinted at all three being with the big club. In fact, he's hinted at the opposite by saying on numerous occasions that they won't rush their defensive prospects.

Marincin was drafted 4 full seasons ago. He should be on the opening day roster as a 2nd or 3rd pairing D this year. As long as he doesn't have to play against guys like Getzlaf, Toews and Kopitar every shift he should be fine.

Klefbom should start the year in OKC and Nurse should go back to Jr.

Not to be confused with argumentative or confrontational, but here are some of the sources that MacTavish feel’s ok with going with youth might be an option.

http://lowetide.ca/blog/2014/06/what-does-it-all-mean.html

The “if we go with youth, we go with youth” quote

http://www.edmontonsun.com/2014/04/15/oilers-gm-craig-mactavish-says-hes-looking-to-add-top-end-talent-but-committed-to-talented-young-group

Petry and the overall defense plan http://blogs.edmontonjournal.com/2014/06/16/craig-mactavish-lays-out-the-edmonton-oilers-plan-on-defence/

All three reputable articles contain the possibility of going with youth, not saying it will happen and MacTavish could be playing counter trey but one can also make the assumption he may actually do it.

If they sign N.N you could also make the argument Perty is finished as an Oiler, possible for a package for that top pairing defensemen.

100% agreed that both Klefbom & Nurse need to develop in there respective leagues.

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#105 Dockstaff
June 20 2014, 11:11AM
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David S wrote:

Problem is you're now down a 2C. And no, throwing in your shiny new draft pick into that spot isn't going to get it done unless the tank is on right out of the gate.

I think the Gagner situation is a harder nut to crack than alot of people think.

No we're not. Nuge is a #2C with potential to be a number one. We have been without a #1C since pretty much Doug Weight. Gagner likes to play in the centre but clearly isn't an NHL calibre C.

I would move Gags to the wing or trade him. Use Yak or Gags to get something like a 2 line C, or keep Gagner and use Yak to get a D. As of now the Oil are wooing Nikitin. One of Gags or Yak will likely complete that trade.

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#106 The Last Big Bear
June 20 2014, 11:12AM
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Zarny wrote:

You mean like:

1) Jay Bouwmeester

2) Jay Bouwmeester

3) Gagner has topped 40 pts 6 of 7 years (including prorated lockout) of his career despite being injured and would have been 1st or 2nd in Florida's team scoring 4 of 7 years...before ever hitting his prime.

4) Other team's under-rating Kulikov has nothing to do with a Kulikov-Gagner trade.

5) Gagner is an asset of value. Get a clue. 40-50 pt players don't grow on trees. That's why Buf gave Ville Leino a big contract for 1 season over 40 pts let alone 6 before ever hitting his prime.

1) That's an entertaining story you're completely fabricating, but it didn't happen. Florida "soured" on their Canadian Olympic, All-Star, All-Rookie, team-leading player? They were so down on him that he not only led the team in TOI, but he led the entire NHL in ice time? By "souring", do you mean "considered him their most important on-ice contributor in all situations"?

2) Florida knew exactly what they had in Bouwmeester, but he was a UFA, who turned them down to take one of the biggest defenceman contracts in NHL history at that time to play for a playoff team in his home province.

3) Oh, we're still waiting for Gagner to 'hit his prime', are we? A player who's highest points total came 7 years ago? A player who has made no material progress since he joined the NHL? Yes, he would be one of the higher point-getters in Flordia, but at the expense of one of the existing offensive drivers on the team.

4) If other teams think Kulikov is a promising 24 year old NHL-calibre defenceman with loads of offensive upside, they will also make offers.

5) Lets look at what $5m-ish should buy for an NHL centreman.... Lets see, Jason Spezza's real salary next season is $4m, and he's asked for a trade to an American team where he won't get called out every time the team loses. Mike Richards out produces Gagner, is about a million times better defensively, Olympic gold medal, multiple Stanley cups, captained a team to the finals, under 30, etc. Ryan Kesler makes $5m and he's on the block too.

Sam Gagner can't even carry the jock strap of any one of those guys, all of whom are on the market at about the same money.

Those are valuable assets. In a capped league, a $5m contract for Sam Gagner is not a valuable asset. It is a liability. It is the kind of contract which people buy out, rather than give up their most valuable assets for.

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#107 Zarny
June 20 2014, 11:16AM
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pkam wrote:

6.67M for another 6 years for a 34 years old on his decline, do they have any options?

Considering that if Richards retires after 2016-17 when his real salary drops to $1M for the final 3 seasons the Rangers get hit with a $5,666,667 cap recapture penalty for 3 years...nope they don't have any options.

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#108 Tikkanese
June 20 2014, 11:20AM
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The Last Big Bear wrote:

1) That's an entertaining story you're completely fabricating, but it didn't happen. Florida "soured" on their Canadian Olympic, All-Star, All-Rookie, team-leading player? They were so down on him that he not only led the team in TOI, but he led the entire NHL in ice time? By "souring", do you mean "considered him their most important on-ice contributor in all situations"?

2) Florida knew exactly what they had in Bouwmeester, but he was a UFA, who turned them down to take one of the biggest defenceman contracts in NHL history at that time to play for a playoff team in his home province.

3) Oh, we're still waiting for Gagner to 'hit his prime', are we? A player who's highest points total came 7 years ago? A player who has made no material progress since he joined the NHL? Yes, he would be one of the higher point-getters in Flordia, but at the expense of one of the existing offensive drivers on the team.

4) If other teams think Kulikov is a promising 24 year old NHL-calibre defenceman with loads of offensive upside, they will also make offers.

5) Lets look at what $5m-ish should buy for an NHL centreman.... Lets see, Jason Spezza's real salary next season is $4m, and he's asked for a trade to an American team where he won't get called out every time the team loses. Mike Richards out produces Gagner, is about a million times better defensively, Olympic gold medal, multiple Stanley cups, captained a team to the finals, under 30, etc. Ryan Kesler makes $5m and he's on the block too.

Sam Gagner can't even carry the jock strap of any one of those guys, all of whom are on the market at about the same money.

Those are valuable assets. In a capped league, a $5m contract for Sam Gagner is not a valuable asset. It is a liability. It is the kind of contract which people buy out, rather than give up their most valuable assets for.

The Flames are a playoff team? Who is fabricating stories now?

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#109 gravis_82
June 20 2014, 11:23AM
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I hope they find a way to get ekblad. RHD: ekblad, petry, schultz. LHD: marincin, klefbomb, nurse. that would look pretty good 3 years from now.

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#110 Sorensenator
June 20 2014, 11:40AM
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Walter Sobchak wrote:

Not to be confused with argumentative or confrontational, but here are some of the sources that MacTavish feel’s ok with going with youth might be an option.

http://lowetide.ca/blog/2014/06/what-does-it-all-mean.html

The “if we go with youth, we go with youth” quote

http://www.edmontonsun.com/2014/04/15/oilers-gm-craig-mactavish-says-hes-looking-to-add-top-end-talent-but-committed-to-talented-young-group

Petry and the overall defense plan http://blogs.edmontonjournal.com/2014/06/16/craig-mactavish-lays-out-the-edmonton-oilers-plan-on-defence/

All three reputable articles contain the possibility of going with youth, not saying it will happen and MacTavish could be playing counter trey but one can also make the assumption he may actually do it.

If they sign N.N you could also make the argument Perty is finished as an Oiler, possible for a package for that top pairing defensemen.

100% agreed that both Klefbom & Nurse need to develop in there respective leagues.

MacT hopes to add 4 or 5 players with 2 or 3 of them being defensemen. He has already acquired the rights to Nikita Nikitan. The only one who will start next year is Marincin. To throw all three young guys in there would be a huge mistake, unless the Oilers purposely want to tank next year.

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#111 Sorensenator
June 20 2014, 11:41AM
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gravis_82 wrote:

I hope they find a way to get ekblad. RHD: ekblad, petry, schultz. LHD: marincin, klefbomb, nurse. that would look pretty good 3 years from now.

Yes three or four years from now, not next year. Veterans are needed. Anyone who cannot see that is lost.

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#112 Will
June 20 2014, 11:57AM
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Wow, something bloggers actually wrote about could come true. We could see Nikkitin in Oilers silks. However, before he was a big help for us, now he's being billed as a depth defender. So fickle.

However it would be nice to see a good stay at home guy playing with Schultz.

This bumps Klefbomb back down to the minors, but it also either bumps Ferrance to the top line, or to the third line. They are going to need to go get a right hand shot defenceman. And though my original comments got shredded by the ON, I still see either Johnny Boychuck, or Dion Phaneuf coming to Edmonton to fill that slot. Unless of course they magically manage to get Ekblad.

It seems like Mac T has something in the works. I am assuming it's either a trade for Phanuef, a trade for Boychuck, or a trade for the 1st overall pick to land Ekblad.

Of the three options, I like the trade for Boychuck the most. It lets the Oilers keep their draft spot and grab a centre. And gives the team another vet on the right side to help mentor Klefbomb, Marincin, and Nurse as they come up.

So then:

Marincin Petry

Nikitin Schultz

Ferrence Boychuck?

This is very much a by committee defence, but is loads better than last year.

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#113 The Last Big Bear
June 20 2014, 12:03PM
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Tikkanese wrote:

The Flames are a playoff team? Who is fabricating stories now?

Well, I never said Bouwmeester made a good choice when hitched his wagon to the Flames.

But they had been to the playoffs 5 years running, had division and conference championships during that time, had a Vezina-winning goalie, and with the addition of Bouwmeester had probably the strongest defence (on paper) in the NHL.

"Aaaaaaaaaand it's gone.

I'm sorry, Calgary, you'll have to move along. This desk is for playoff teams only."

/southparkreference

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#114 madjam
June 20 2014, 12:35PM
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There's a lot to say about youth growing together . Example :Colorado . I like it better than separating them on AHL squad personally .If they are ready to make the transition , and it's our best option , then they are ready and better served on parent club .

How many of other ones breaking into their clubs has it destroyed or hurt to be honest . None , including our own . That's management and coaches call anyways , not ours . You can have your opinion but i'd side with club route on this subject . Most youth on bad teams to begin with and do not have the luxury of holding them back as long as other more prominent teams . Having said that I see little evidence in last 10 years thatshows it destroyed any one of them .

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#115 Zarny
June 20 2014, 02:42PM
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Walter Sobchak wrote:

Not to be confused with argumentative or confrontational, but here are some of the sources that MacTavish feel’s ok with going with youth might be an option.

http://lowetide.ca/blog/2014/06/what-does-it-all-mean.html

The “if we go with youth, we go with youth” quote

http://www.edmontonsun.com/2014/04/15/oilers-gm-craig-mactavish-says-hes-looking-to-add-top-end-talent-but-committed-to-talented-young-group

Petry and the overall defense plan http://blogs.edmontonjournal.com/2014/06/16/craig-mactavish-lays-out-the-edmonton-oilers-plan-on-defence/

All three reputable articles contain the possibility of going with youth, not saying it will happen and MacTavish could be playing counter trey but one can also make the assumption he may actually do it.

If they sign N.N you could also make the argument Perty is finished as an Oiler, possible for a package for that top pairing defensemen.

100% agreed that both Klefbom & Nurse need to develop in there respective leagues.

Fair enough. I was referencing the first quote from your first reference:

MacT: “We’re not going to compromise our young prospects on defence,” he said of forcing the likes of Darnell Nurse, Oscar Klefbom, Martin Marincin, etc. into the line-up until they are ready. “We’d rather they played in the American Hockey League or junior.”

I think you read a bit too much into the line “If we have to go young, we go young,”

Because the immediate next line asks MacT about acquiring a high-end defensmen without giving up one of the core players and MacT's response is:

“I think we can. There are lots of assets that we have.”

With acquiring a window to negotiate with Nikitin and the various rumors about Phaneuf and acquiring other D I don't see it as MacT hinting all 3 will be with the Oilers next year. That's a last ditch plan if all else fails.

And if that ends up being the case God help the Oilers because they will get destroyed.

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#116 Walter Sobchak
June 20 2014, 03:32PM
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Zarny wrote:

Fair enough. I was referencing the first quote from your first reference:

MacT: “We’re not going to compromise our young prospects on defence,” he said of forcing the likes of Darnell Nurse, Oscar Klefbom, Martin Marincin, etc. into the line-up until they are ready. “We’d rather they played in the American Hockey League or junior.”

I think you read a bit too much into the line “If we have to go young, we go young,”

Because the immediate next line asks MacT about acquiring a high-end defensmen without giving up one of the core players and MacT's response is:

“I think we can. There are lots of assets that we have.”

With acquiring a window to negotiate with Nikitin and the various rumors about Phaneuf and acquiring other D I don't see it as MacT hinting all 3 will be with the Oilers next year. That's a last ditch plan if all else fails.

And if that ends up being the case God help the Oilers because they will get destroyed.

I would like to think that the management team has a better plan then tanking on purpose by using mostly rookies.

This is (If they sign Nikitan) the reason I also feel Petry's days are numbered in Edmonton, If they can package Petry for a top pairing defensemen, I’m good with that.

I have always agreed the Oilers should be developing better, will never disagree with that and maybe I’ve read too much into what MacTavish has talked about regarding the rookies.

The Oilers have talked a good game during the off season’s only to come up well below what I would consider reasonable expectations.

I honestly won’t get too low or to excited until I see the starting lineup.

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#117 David S
June 20 2014, 04:54PM
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Dockstaff wrote:

No we're not. Nuge is a #2C with potential to be a number one. We have been without a #1C since pretty much Doug Weight. Gagner likes to play in the centre but clearly isn't an NHL calibre C.

I would move Gags to the wing or trade him. Use Yak or Gags to get something like a 2 line C, or keep Gagner and use Yak to get a D. As of now the Oil are wooing Nikitin. One of Gags or Yak will likely complete that trade.

Sam Gagner is a second line NHL centre. Deal with it. Problem is he's been playing on a team with too many rookies, no support vets, AHL level D and third world goaltending for almost as long as he's been with the Oilers.

I'd lay good money down he gets +50 points next year - in Edmonton or elsewhere. As a center. It's a good bet.

•Only top end first line C's are above 80 points. If you have a winger that can crack 70 points you have an elite winger. •If you have a winger who scores 60 points thats an average first line winger •A player who scores 30+ goals is top end production for his position and high 20s is average first line production. •Typical 2nd line winger is only scoring about 37 points (remember this takes into account injuries) •A good 2nd line winger is getting 45ish points •A good 2nd line centre scores just over 50 points •If running a 1a/1b C system I would aim to get 120 points out of the pair (that is the same output as the 70 points from a 1C and 50 points from a 2C)

http://www.pensionplanpuppets.com/2011/9/27/2452941/common-misconceptions-how-much-should-that-forward-score

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#118 Rdubb
June 21 2014, 08:53AM
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I think that if MacT made the trade with FLA it would be a steal of a deal for EDM and would make much better from the get go as they'd get a very good skilled d-man who seems to have lost interest in FLA and would loose a player who not only seems to be disinterested in EDM but CANNOT play a single second away from the puck, heck, EDM would be better off with Arco playing in the middle, defensively that is, and who knows, the kid EDM drafts just may make the team out of camp, or MacT may pull a rabbit out of his hat and either sign a 2nd line C or trade for one.... One day Sam will shake head and stop listening to his family and others close to him and realize that he IS NOT a C on any NHL team, as his size hurts, and most importantly, his play away from the puck is worse than most rookies coming out of junior. If you can't be a C on the worst team (ave over past 8yrs) than you cannot make it on any team...Sam could be a good winger if he'd only realize it!!! & since he won't change his mind about playing the wing, he's got to move somewhere else, and it must be before July 1 of this yr...

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#119 hagargt
June 21 2014, 07:37PM
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OilDieHard wrote:

i say yes straight up Gagner for Kulikov. however, it leaves a giant hole at 2nd line center unless the Oiler take Draisaitl and play him right away, or they can sign someone to help right now. (Grabovski?).

There already is a giant hole at second like center. Lol

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