I like Sam Gagner as a person and as a hockey player. I like his talent. I respect his competitive streak. I admire Gagner because his give-a-crap meter seems permanently pegged on high.
Now, in what’s looking like a break-out year, I think the Edmonton Oilers would be nuts to trade Gagner unless they can get exactly what they want and need for him, but seeing as GM Steve Tambellini has yet to ask my opinion on the matter, might the Oilers consider moving No. 89 by the NHL’s April 3 trade deadline?
Regardless of what I think, if Tambellini is doing his job – insert laugh track here – he’d be shirking his duties as Kevin Lowe’s front-man if he didn’t at least look around and see what the return might be and if he could move an asset like Gagner (or Ales Hemsky) along for parts this roster is missing.
While I’m not of the mind the Oilers should move Gagner along just because his value now is as high as it will ever be – the argument made by many fans, bloggers and hybrids of the two, alike – it’s reasonable to think Gagner might fetch what the Oilers need, assuming Tambellini has identified what that is.
If I was GM, I’d be reluctant to trade Gagner for several reasons. Yes, his value now, in his sixth season, is high, but if the former London Knight, who leads the Oilers in scoring with 10-15-25 in 26 games, is just rounding into the player he might be for the next decade or so, an organization has to consider the time and money it has already invested in him.
Second-line centres capable of scoring 55-65 points in a full season, which is the range Gagner has been pegged at for some time (a mark he looks more than capable of based on his production this season), aren’t hanging around on every street corner waiting for NHL jobs.
And, as anybody paying attention has seen, Gagner is a competitive little cuss who isn’t big on taking crap from anybody no matter how big they are. He’s willing to get his nose dirty (and bent) to stand up for himself and teammates. Gagner competes. He gives you what he’s got. He’s a gamer. He hates to lose. A team can never have too much of that.
That said, a team can never have too many quality defensemen or too much depth in goal or too many robust forwards capable of bringing a physical element and playing top-six minutes. The Oilers could use bolstering in all three areas. Might moving Gagner provide Tambellini the opportunity to address those needs? Of course he might.
If Gagner stays at or near the pace he’s on now and finishes this shortened season with, say, 40 points, he’s going to command substantially more than the $3.2 million he’s getting now on a one-year deal as an RFA next summer. If I was Tambellini, I’d be looking at inking Gagner to a deal for three or four years in the range of $4.25 to $4.5 million a season.
I’d also be working the phones to see if there’s a rowdy top-six forward with hands and wheels or a proven, young top-four defenseman or goaltender with pedigree available. And I’d be asking if Gagner might fetch me some of that.
If there is – the right player in the right position at the right money — I’d pursue it. If there’s not, I’d happily sit down with Gagner and his agent at the end of the season, if not before, and put my name to the kind of contract that makes it clear Gagner is part of the plan moving forward. In that scenario, I’d look at moving somebody else, likely Hemsky, to get what I need.
I wait with great anticipation to see what Tambellini does.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.