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.

  • 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.