Might circumstance and necessity make the Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs trade partners? Toronto Star columnist Damien Cox fuelled speculation today it might be so, citing "persistent chatter" the Maple Leafs are interested in Sam Gagner.

The Oilers are deep at forward and light on defensemen, while the Maple Leafs are relatively deep on the blue line but are looking to improve down the middle, which prompted Cox to mention via Twitter that this "persistent chatter" — no word on who is actually doing the talking — makes some sense.

Might there be common ground for a deal there?

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Often-injured Tim Connolly, who was supposed to play centre on Toronto’s the top line alongside Phil Kessel, is out with a bad shoulder and not expected to play in the Maple Leafs first two games, including the season-opener against Montreal.

Gagner, meanwhile, has been nursing a sprained ankle, so there’s no guarantee he’d be ready any sooner than Connolly. In the longer term, however, GM Brian Burke might be looking for somebody like Gagner to bolster his top nine. Burke just added face-off specialist David Steckel, but he’s a fourth-liner.

The Oilers have Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Shawn Horcoff, Eric Belanger, Anton Lander and Gagner, when he’s healthy, as centres. They also have Chris Vandevelde and Ryan O’Marra on the AHL farm.

While there are questions about Edmonton’s blue line depth, especially with Ryan Whitney coming off ankle surgery and Ladislav Smid out with a separated shoulder, the Maple Leafs are heavy on the back end.

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They have Dion Phaneuf, Carl Gunnarsson, John-Michael Liles, Luke Schenn, Mike Komisarek and rookie Jake Gardiner in their top six, with Cody Franson, Keith Aulie and Matt Lashoff, just sent to the minors, waiting in the wings.

Even if the Maple Leafs are interested in Gagner, as Cox says, it doesn’t mean a thing unless Edmonton GM Steve Tambellini sees somebody in that group as a useful part on his blue line.

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    • Hey man. Debate is fine but even fan debates go off the tracks when you start comparing 3rd round WHL draftees to, well, Sam Gagner. That’s pulling the thread pretty tight, wouldn’t you say? Next people will be talking about that 10 year old kid in Clareview house league who’s really rippin’ it up.

      • Jerk Store

        Fair enough, David S. I did not initiate the Ewanyk / Martindale thread and certainly did not intend to hijack the Gagner trade talk, which I agree is much more relevant – and could be even more pressing if Whitney continues to be out. To be clear, no one was comparing either to Gagner only saying it is too early to say an 18 or 19 year old has no shot to replace Horcoff or Belanger in 3 years.

        I just hate misinformation. Speaking of which: Tig u Glass. N-H only had 2 ES points in Edmonton during playoffs. I will shut up now (on this topic anyway).

        • Whoops, you’re right. I looked a bit too quickly.

          The problem is that my point still stands even though I’m off by half… unless you consider *holding* him to a point per game at evens some sort of special accomplishment.

          Most people don’t consider that “nothing”.

      • Peterborough

        Kind of missing the point. Arch originally implied that we are not deep at centre prospects and I begged to differ. Mentioning Pitlick and the “3rdies”


        • And I still contend we are not deep at centre prospects. All the best ones are graduated to the NHL (at least for opening day).

          What we have left is an AHL rookie who is coming off of a middling WHL season, a skilled player whose heart has been questioned and who has some unexplained contract questions, and a WHL 2nd liner needing shoulder surgery just months after being drafted.

          You need to do some serious convincing to argue that the Oilers have more depth at C than what is currently on the NHL roster.

          • Peterborough

            We have in my opinion 5 guys on the big club that can play in the NHL. RNH is got 1C Gags 2C Horc 3C Belanger 4C that is set for years. Lander is knocking on the door and the youngersters mentioned will be looking at the 2-3 C positions soon plus we have guys like Chris Vande Velde, Milan Kytnar and Ryan O’Marra that may well turn into uselful 4Cs.

            Is that not depth? I’m not saying trade any of them untill the logjam completes and guys push others out. But it looks very bright at C for the Oil.

          • After the ones who are with the Oilers in Jasper, how many do we have with legit chances of being more than fringe 4th liners?

            O’Marra and Vande Velde are out, Kytnar was never in, Pitlick has yet to establish himself in any league (his 3rd in as many seasons), Martindale comes to the pro leagues with question marks about character but seems like he’s got some skill, and Ewanyk just blew out his shoulder after being drafted.

            I think I was fair there, but I’ve listed 2 players who MIGHT still look like they have a chance at being more than AHL callups in their careers and both are unproven in the professional ranks. That is not good depth.

            The good news is that at the NHL level there are 3 players under 25 that look like real live NHL players with a variety of skills. That IS bright. However, as soon as those players leave there is nothing to replace them with.

          • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

            No I wouldn’t call that depth. That’s simply a farm system, every team has one comparable.

            Yes we have centers outside the NHL… that’s a function of the draft… if that is the criteria of “depth” then we’ve had depth for the past 30 years.

          • Peterborough

            When you have 3 guys under 23 that can play in the NHL and two legit 2-3 guys that have a good range of skills, yes. Add to that 2 others who might be knocking at the door for top 6 mins in 1/2 years plus 4 others who have a shot at your bottom 6, big yes.

            To quote FH on oiler prospects:

            “Team Strengths:
            1 Size and depth on the blueline
            2 Wingers with a wide range of skills
            3 Size and depth up the middle”

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    I think that this is Gagner’s year to turn things up a notch or two. Prior to his most recent injury he appeared to be step quicker. He was putting the puck into the corner and going after it. Trading him now would likely be unwise. Maybe re-assess at the trade deadline. By that time the coaches will have a better idea if the young guns are bringing more to the team than him. Maybe the pressure would be more on the offering GM of a contending team to make a better deal for the Oil.

  • OilFan

    Do you guys really think Gagner is that good ? You do realize your comparing him with good players and using age as the only justification. Try using skill to compare them. Or just use age and forget about that fact the other players can skate, shoot and win draws a rate Gagner hasn’t seen. This is why people claim Oiler fans over hype there prospects , rookies and players.

    • Jerk Store

      It is not what Gagner is, it is what he COULD be. Certainly it is not likely (some would say impossible) he will ever become what the Sedins or a Datysuk currently are. However, the kid (and he still is a kid) has a great pedigree and has showed flashes of brilliance at times. And despite his shortcomings (poor on face offs, not great size, injuries) he has what is potentially the most dangerous quality (to a GM anyway) …. potential. Those of us old enough remember the Oilers releasing Ray Whitney or the Flames trading a Martin St. Louis, both at the “washed up” age of 25 years old. But there are also tons of highly rated juniors who had decent careers but never quite broke out as stars (Jeff Friesen, Pat Falloon, David Legwand, JP Dumont and countless others). Where Gagner (Gagne for you Flames fans, Canucks fans and trout) fits in ….. well that is the rub, isn’t it?

    • Peterborough

      correct except for schenn. there is no way burke would trade him tho so yes i a way you are 100% right.

      we do not need more prospects in a position were we have nothinig but prospects.

      • I agree with your conclusions, but I do think you’re undervaluing Pitlick a bit. He has looked good whenever given a chance to play with pros and my understanding is that he is 1C in OKC. I think he has a pretty reasonable shot at the NHL in 1 or 2 years, and not necessarily at 4C. He could reasonable play 2 or 3C I think.

        The rest of them are 4C at best and only if everything goes perfectly from here on out for them, so we definitely cannot afford to give up any depth at Center at this point.

        All that being said – I am not opposed to moving Gagner for an equivalent value defender. I just do not believe Tambellini has a hope in hell of getting value for him.

          • That’s fair – I’m mainly just pointing out that while your descriptions to date have left him sounding like part of the VDV and O’Marra group I think the odds are in his favor at is point of making it to the NHL eventually. The odds are still very much against the rest of them.

        • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

          Pitlick is certainly the best of that bunch.

          This will be a big year for him, if he can dominate the AHL at center then we’ve probably got something, if he’s mediocre then we’ll have to start thinking about moving him into the suspect pile.

        • Jerk Store


          Let me preface this by saying I am a Gagner fan. What type of “equivalent value defender” would Gagner garner? What I take that description to mean is a 4 – 6 year vet who was drafted fairly high but has not panned out exactly as planned, to this point. As I type I realize that sounds suspiciously like Cam Barker (actually drafted 7 yrs ago), who we got for zip.

          I am not asking this to be a smart a$$, I actually am wondering if you could give an example of a defenceman you think we could get for Gagner at this point? My preference would be to wait until Gagner can come back from injury and either a) be a key contributor b) increase his trade value or c) confirm what many – not me – believe; that he is a tweener with not quite enough skill to be a good / very good 2nd line center or enough size and grit to be a 3rd liner.

          EDIT: Sorry as I re-read this I see you are essentially saying the same thing. It will be tough to get a reasonable return that will solve our D-issues. My bad.

          • Cam Barker and Sam Gagner could not be further apart from each other interms of draft expectations and actual production.

            Cam Barker is on team #3 and was just bought out. He couldnt last on 2 NHL Clubs. He was a 3rd overall pick who is verging on being a fringe NHLer.

            Sam Gagner is the 2nd leading scorer from his draft year, and he had fallen out of the lottery.

            Make that argument about Filatov or Brule, not Gagner

          • Jerk Store

            Fair enough that is a good point and perhaps it was an unfair comparison. Although would you concede that guys from that draft like JVR, Couture, Shattenkirk, maybe even Jamie Benn who all have less career points than Gagner but hold more current trade value?

            Second, if you put on your GM hat (after removing your fashionable snap brim fedora) is there any D-man that another GM would reasonably trade (I realize you are well beyond the Omark and a 2nd for Weber crowd), that you would take for Gagner?

          • Why wouldnt there be? I have a player with high pedigree who can put up 40+ points in his sleep and is getting paid half of what guys like JVR are making even though he’s more productive. Oh, and he jsut turned 22. Next year he’s RFA so you can negotiate your own contract.

            You really think 29 other teams are looking at Gagner and saying that there isnt 1 defenseman on their roster that they wouldnt trade for a young productive centreman?

            But who cares, because trading him would be an Oiler mistake. So it’s best not to even think about.

  • Here’s the thing aout Pitlick. He’s still very young, but he has now played in 3 different leagues in the past 3 years. With that has been 3 different sets of coaches. And if next year he jumps to the NHL that will be 4 in 4 years. And he’s bounced around a couple of positions.

    I dont think I’m being overly cautious when I say that this prospect probably needs a little bit of stability.

    What I know about him is that he brings grit and skill, and that he scored a lot at evens last season. All very good. I just want to see him do it for a year in the AHL before I add him to the cant miss group.

  • This is going to be Sam Gagner’s best season, if he can keep healthy. He may have not had the best totals last season, but he matured more and more as the season went along. Give him top-6 minutes this season, and he’ll surprise us all.

    It’s far too soon to trade Gagner, and he will be a big part of the Oiler’s future. He & RNH will be a great 1/2 center combo for years to come. I know a lot of people will complain that they’re both too small, but with the rule changes coming up for hits to the head & potentially fighting, size will matter less and less, and skilled players will benefit.