As expected the Oilers and Sam Gagner avoided arbitration as Gagner signed a one-year, $3.2 million deal early this morning.

What does it mean?

For me it means that both sides, just like Nation, view Gagner differently.

Gagner’s abillity as a player is easily the most debated topic on the Nation. One faction feels he is only 22 and poised to become a legit top-end #2 centre or low-end #1, while the other side feels he will only be what he has been through five seasons. A 45-50 point player.

A one-year deal shows me that the Oilers are still a bit unsure where Gagner fits in the overall outlook, while Gagner’s camp feel he has lots of room to grow and didn’t want to sign a long-term deal because he’s on the cusp of a breakout season.

It truly is a great debate because no one knows for sure which side will be right.

Gagner has great offensive instincts, and this year he’ll play with Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Nail Yakupov and Ales Hemsky. It is clear he will have some incredibly skilled wingers on his side all season. Some will suggest the Oilers made a mistake in not wrapping him up long-term because they’ll likely have to pay him more next season, after he surpasses the 50-point mark this year.

It is possible, and likely, if he stays healthy that he’ll set a career-high in points, and that is precisely why his camp might have only wanted a one-year deal. We can only speculate what a two-year term would have cost, but I’m guessing two years would have been closer to the $3.7-$4.0 range.

Had he gone to arbitration I’m guessing he would have gotten more from an arbitrator. History tells us that the arbitrator usually favours the players. They base everything off of comparables, which aren’t always accurate considering how teams view players differently within their own organizations.

For instance T.J Oshie is considered a cornerstone forward by the Blues, but with RNH, Hall, Eberle and even Yakupov in Edmonton, Gagner likely 5th on the forwards depth chart. Teams will pay guys within their team based on how they rank them, not always of course, but in most cases they try to chart out their place on the team.


Neither side really wants to have an outside party determine how much a player makes. Even though the players have usually gotten a better deal in arbitration, many don’t want to go through with it, because the process isn’t pretty. They have to hear what the team doesn’t like about them, and sometimes it isn’t flattering. Plus most players don’t want to be perceived as selfish.

This is a fair deal, but it also leaves both sides open to losing the deal. It is risky for the Oilers, because Gagner could have a breakout season and then the Oilers will be forced to re-sign him along with Hall and Eberle.

Gagner might not break 50 points, and if he doesn’t then he likely won’t be getting much of a raise next year. There is also the ugly risk of injury, and hopefully for both parties, and the fans, that doesn’t happen.

I also believe both sides can win on this deal. If Gagner pots 55-60 points this year, he’ll be in line for a raise, but that would mean the Oilers are closer to a playoff spot. This team needs to improve, and in order to improve as a team they will need certain players to improve individually.

Gagner is one of the guys, and if he can take the next step in development that he feels he’s capable of the Oilers might actually compete for a playoff spot.

Gagner is working hard on his foot speed this summer, just like he did last year and if he has the same amount of improvement this summer that he did last year, he will come to camp a bit quicker, which will make him more dangerous.

Is this the year Gagner becomes the player he, and much of the Nation, feel he can be? We’ll see. Watching it unfold should be interesting.

  • vetinari

    This is probably the best result for both sides. Sam is a good hockey player tracking well, but he’s not really exceptional at any aspect of the game at this point.

    Also, playing with quality players helps to bring out a player’s potential and Sam’s line mates over the first few years were all over the roadmap.

    I sincerely hope that Sam can become a defensively responsible option on the ice that can also be a plus player and rack up 60-75 points a season… but on the other hand… if he stagnates, I’d have no problems with moving him for a quality defenceman or a prospect like Grigerenko who could maybe fill that role better…

  • TKB2677

    I love this deal especially for the Oilers. It gives Gagner a VERY nice raise but also sends Gagner a clear message. The message being “we aren’t sure what you are. If you want to be a second line center and be paid like a second line center. It’s time to put up or shut up.”.

    Im my opinion a second line center should score at least 20 goals a season and be at least a 55 point player year in and year out. Plus they should be close to 50% on draws. Gagner over the last 5 seasons, hasn’t scored 20 goals yet and hasn’t gone over the 50 pt mark yet. Last season was his best season faceoff wise but he was still only 47.6%. That’s getting better but still a ways to go. He hasn’t even gone past his rookie season total of 49 points. He has averaged 15 goals and 44 points. That to me screams borderline, low end 2nd line center on a not very good team.

    If scoring mid teens in goals and getting 40 points means you are a second line center. He’s a scary thought. Eric Belanger has scored 15 or more goals 4 times and has scored 40 or more points twice. NO WAY in hell would I or anyone else say Belanger is a second line center. But if you look at what Gagner’s average numbers are over his first 5 season, Belanger has put up numbers close to that plus he is significantly better at faceoffs.
    Scary if you think about it.

    Gagner better pick his game up.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Hearing alot of positive things about this Stan Ganger kid. Anyone know a little more about him, good draft pedigree?

    Hockey DB has him at 6’4″ 215lbs and skates like the wind. Release is unreal i heard, puck isn’t visible when it leaves his stick.

  • TKB2677

    The Oilers are the biggest beneficiaries in this deal.

    If Sam has a great year (which he could based on his potential line mates), he proves to be excellent trade deadline fodder for the Oilers. They could get more than they ever would at this point. Or the Oilers realize that Sam is a real cog in the future and can lock him up longer term.

    If Sam has a poor year, he’s still an RFA and really doesn’t have any choices. His best option might be to choose arbitration, but as far as we know with the new CBA that option might go away. He could sign an offer sheet, which the Oilers could match or accept draft picks. Based on what Sam might take, that could involve first round picks.

    The Oilers hold all the cards and once we have a new CBA in place and another year of watching Sam, the Oilers will be able to make a decision that is best for the team at that point.

  • TKB2677

    As long as Sam is an RFA next year, this deal is good for the Oil.
    If he produces, Oilers have the option to sign him long-term or trade him for value.
    If he doesn’t, his contract is up so no worries.

  • Spydyr

    I think the management is cautious with sam at this point and see what he can do with quality linemates.If he racks up points with with regular quality linemates then why not keep him.Might be good chemistry.Might be that he s getting better .Wait and see 3/4 months.

  • Sam has not had the luxury afforded most top 6 players in getting good wingers, developing chemistry with them, and then staying together longterm to reap the rewards of this chemistry.

    Up until last year he had played with very marginal players. Hemsky has skill, but he is a lot harder to read, play with, and develop chemistry with then any of Eberle, Hall, Nuge, Smyth, Jones…..etc.

    I think between Hall and Yakupov his point totals will soar. If you are keeping Hemsky and putting him with Gagner, practice that way and let them struggle together at times and stay together so they can develop chemistry.

    For the comment that a 2nd line centre should have 20+ goals and 50+ points……..I am assuming you are a Pitsburg fan and used to having one of the best players in the world as your 2nd line centreman. I am not going to do the research to back up this argument but I would be surprised if there are more then 3 2nd line centremen that meet your requirements. This means they are the elite and most likely would be 1st line centremen on other teams.

  • Is there any split of Gagner ‘s numbers last year as a second line center vs. that ridiculous experiment Renney had at messing him up completely at right wing?

    Krueger giving him a defined role and sticking to it should equal better numbers, much less if Sam progresses more as a player.

  • Bucknuck

    I am with Arch (as usual) on this issue.

    Gagner is only a few months older than Eberle. He’s a kid, and nowhere near his prime yet. He is a fierce competitor and it shows in how hard he commits in the off season. He’s getting stronger every year.

    Trading him now would be a mistake.

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Ugghhh another year of watching Gagner getting pushed off the puck. He’ll likely get 50+ points which is not surprising considering who his wingers will be. This guy rode Patrick Kane and got over 100 points in junior, he’s used to feasting off his linemates. Sadly the Oil dont have anyone else to put in the 2C spot, Horcoff isnt well suited there. Hall is an option that they can explore. Its been said many times, the Oilers will announce they are ready to win and compete when they trade Gagner knowing that they have someone better to replace him. I look forward to that day.

  • PutzStew

    Finally. Been waiting all day to comment.

    Smyth – 2 years
    Hemsky – 2 years
    Gagner – 1 year
    Yakopov – No contract

    Does this seem right? Big rush to sign 2 guys on the down swing and docking around new blood? Wonder how things are going to go with Eberle. Hall and PRV next summer???

    I don’t care how many number ones this team gets, management is gonna kill this team.

  • Bucknuck

    No team can have awesome franchise players in every top 6 position. You’d blow past the cap very quickly if you tried that. You instead need to have some mediocre complementary players that leech their points off of their better linemates. Gagner is one of those players, but even if we accept that premise, it leads to 2 problems:

    1.) Gagner brings very little beyond his point production. Sub-par on faceoffs, doesn’t hit much, sub-par on backchecking, not much of a shot blocker, can’t say much about whether he can kill penalties or match up against the opponents’ top lines at even strength (a big deal for a 2C). Ideally, your complementary players with lower point production can provide some value beyond their offense.

    2.) If he starts producing at 55-60 points per season, he will get a raise and the cap hit won’t be worth it for a one-dimensional complementary player.

    By the way, there are a lot more centers out-producing him than the numbers I’ve seen quoted in recent articles. 15 of the 16 playoff teams alone had 2 centers that outscored him.

  • O.C.

    This deal makes the most sense.

    A three or four year dear was too speculative. Too much risk either way.

    A two year deal goes straight to the current UFA.

    One year is a good time for evaluation. Fact is, no team wants a disgruntled, underpaid player. No fan wants an overpaid shlock, and the stigma makes the player less marketable.

  • grubshph

    I have read every message board and blog and article regarding Sam Gagner and his place within the Oiler hierarchy. Most folks, even those rooting for other teams, acknowledge that Gagner has ability and sits somewhere in the neighbourhood of a solid second line centre. I tend to agree with this evaluation. I believe that Sam Gagner can be the 2nd line centre of a championship team. There, thats out of the way.

    Her is the rub. I just dont think that the Oilers can win the Cup with Gagner as their #2C. What most people fail to mention is that the problem is not Sam Gagner or his production, its that RNH is #1C. You cant have two players of that nature (ahem..on the small side) as #1 and #2C. Skill aside, if Ryan Getzlaf, Joe Thornton, Malkin types are at the #1C, Gagner is a great fit potting 50-55 pts a year in the #2 slot.

    Having both of them logging significant minutes at C, coupled with our smaller skill wingers creates problems at both ends of the ice when they have to check those larger forwards, retrieve the puck from the corners or cycle with their back to the net. Just my 2 cents

    • Small town dreams

      This is my opinion as well. I like Sam, but I believe you need a mix of skill, size, speed, and toughness. Not just a top six that put up an enormous amount of points but a blend of players I’m sick of watching our young skill being run most nights because no one is there to create space. You can have all the muscle you want on the third and fourth lines but that doesn’t help when they are on the bench. You need some size and physicality who can skate with the skilled players

  • What does it mean?

    The right deal for the Oilers.

    If Iā€™m thinking long term it means Ganger out of a job come draft time next year.

    Mackinnon ā€“ Barkov ā€“ Shinkaruk ā€“ Monahan ā€“ Lazar – Erne –

    Depending on where the Oilers finish, these players will be available all centers and all very good.
    Then the Oilers can decide to move Gagner to the wing or trade him.

  • melancholyculkin

    These endless Gagner debates are boring.

    There were only 13 forwards in the entire league Gagner’s age or younger that scored more than Gagner on a per-game basis last season, and 4 of them were taken first overall.

    When Sam Gagner plays he outshoots and outscores his opponents and that’s the only thing a hockey player needs to do.

    Outshoot and outscore. That’s all that hockey is.

  • I am glad that they avoided arbitration because that process rarely ends well. The 1 year deal does make for a potentially ugly off-season next year though.

    I like Sam. I think that he is a second line centre in the NHL. Is the right fit long-term in that role for the Oilers? Maybe not but only time will tell. He is an asset and his name often comes up in trade rumours, most likely because other teams see value in this player. Sooner or later, we will probably have to make tough decisions on our support players, Sam Gagner being one of those guys.

  • Pinoy-ler

    While Gagner posted his career high in points in his rookie season, it’s also worth noting in that year, he played 79 games. That’s the most games Gagner has ever played in a season. And as Cody Anderson said above in one of his posts, in that season, Horcoff was injured and that meant more ice time for Gagner, PP and 5×5.

    In the 08-09 season, I think it is fair to say that Gagner did not meet fan expectations that year as he played 76 games, just 3 less than the previous season, but racked up 8 less points. However, his +/- was a lot better that season, -1, compared to -21 in his rookie season.

    The following 2 seasons, 09-10 and 10-11, Gagner played 68 games each season, posting up 41 and 42 points respectively each year. His PPG was still a little lower than his rookie season, however, not by a large amount.

    Now in this past season, Gagner played 75 games, scoring 47 points. Had Gagner played 4 more games, do you think he would have been able to break the 50 point plateau? And what if he did? Does surpassing his rookie totals make that much of a difference?

    I think my point here is that Gagner has yet to reach his ceiling. He’s 22. So what if he’s not progressing at an Eberle-like pace? Everyone has their own.

    Gagner will be more than worthy of being our 2nd line center. We just have to be a little more patient. Then Oilers Nation will rejoice as Samwise breaks expectations and Gagner non-believers will eat their words willingly!


  • Kodiak

    I think it’s a fair deal and win-win for both sides. It gives Gagner a chance to do something he’s been unable to do, and that’s take a big step forward. If he does he will be able to sign a big, long term deal. If he doesn’t then the Oilers at least won’t be saddled with a long term bad contract.

    Last year in preseason Gagner looked a lot faster and I think his early injury took the starch out of him for quite a while. If he can come into the season healthy and faster I think he will probably put up 55-60 points.

    The problem I have with Gagner isn’t his points but his overall contribution. There are lots of 2nd line centers that produce similar points as Gagner but also play physical and solid defensively. Gagner is fine for now but when we start rounding out into a contender it wil be time to part ways with Gagner whether he’s putting up 45 points or 65 points.

  • TeddyTurnbuckle

    I haven’t been a big Ganger supporter over the years, I think his best season was his first and I don’t think he is a good fit on this small team. I am intrigued by his Dads career though and how it took Dave Ganger 5 years to be an NHL regular and then he rattled off six 30 to 40 goal seasons in a row. They are the exact same size too.

  • Kodiak

    Gagner given a contract and expected to break out this season in order to get another contract . He signed at a price i believe for Oilers to trade him , and i expect that to happen to be honest . Does not appear Gagner in our long term plans . My opinion only .

  • Kodiak

    Good deal for both sides. Gagner gets 55-60 points I’ll be very happy for us. 60+ AND WE ARE PROOBABLY in the playoffs. Good for us. CBA won’t affect Gagner’s contract but will most likely limit Hall and Eberle’s earning potential. if Gagner performs 4.5 million won’t be unreasonable and Hall and Eberle get the same at about 5-6 million if the numbers continue to trend and thier health remains the same or better. Hall’s shoulder will be the mitigating factor in his deal.