Craig MacTavish has a ‘to-do’ list that would challenge mortals, but his media conferences suggest he’s going to get a lot done this summer. We’ve talked draft, and buyouts and trades, but the truth is that job 1 is getting Sam Gagner’s situation straighted out. 

Sam Gagner likes it in Edmonton based on reports, and the Oilers clearly like Samwise according to Craig MacTavish. However, Sam and his agent have an idea about fair dollars for service and the Oilers have a cap number in mind, and those two things might not be close. 

Sam’s a unique case–expecting him to do a ‘Laddy Smid’ and dictate to the media his contract before it’s written is folly–and his agent wouldn’t be doing his job unless he’s pushing the dollars higher. That’s just good represenation. 

On the other hand, this is a sweet, sweet spot in the batting order for any young player. Sam Gagner has a chance to be an outstanding ‘end of the batting order’ offensive player and a real positive for this young Oiler team. Even the loser in a battle for good wingers is going to end up with Yak City and someone else who can cash, and that my friends is very nice address. 


  • 5×5 points per 60: 1.84 (4th among regular forwards)
  • 5×4 points per 60: 6.15 (1st among regular forwards, 19th in NHL)
  • Qual Comp: 5th toughest among regular forwards (2nd line opp)
  • Qual Team: 6th best teammates among regular forwards
  • Corsi Rel: -4.3 (9th best among regular forwards) (-14.44 CorsiON)
  • Zone Start: 51.4% (4th easiest among regular forwards)
  • Zone Finish: 52.0% (3rd best among regular forwards)
  • Shots on goal/percentage: 113/12.39% (2nd among F’s>70 shots)
  • Boxcars: 48, 14-24-38
  • Plus Minus: -6 on a team that was -15

Gagner’s playing card looks exactly as we might expect at 5×5, and he had a wonderful run on the PP–a bad, bad thing considering MacT is about to buy free agent seasons from him. His shot differential was less than we should expect, and that’s a concern, but the boxcars are lovely and he can clearly play with skill. 

Sam Gagner is going to cost a pretty penny. 


(courtesy Bruce McCurdy via Rob Vollman)

Sam’s bubble tells the story–small negative (red) in the shot differential and playing second toughest opp (putting him in the two way role) while still getting decent zone starts.

Is that graph worth $5M? Add his PP prowess and a great agent, I think a case can be made.


I think it comes down to dollars. I believe Craig MacTavish when he says “Sam Gagner has really developed into a leader here, the type of character we want. And that’s going to be important when I’m making the decisions that we have the type of culture in that room. We’ve had a few years of too much of a circus in there. And that’s going to change" and I believe he wants to sign the young skill forward.

On the other hand, there’s a line in the sand the new GM is unlikely to go past in terms of contract number and length, and with Samwise possibly a year away from free agency and holding some cards, I suspect this thing gets done one way or another before the free agent window opens.

  • Klima's Mullet

    All of the young players will begin to sort themselves out soon enough.

    Statistics are useless as valuation baselines so far,simply because in all reality there are only so many potential points to go around and even those numbers are system dependant.We cannot use tradition valuation methodologys anymore .Look at what Taylors bonus cost the teams 1st line in terms of balanced dynamic offensive projection?The line struggled for most of the year until adjustments to halls intent were forced upon him,and he was policed.Its a learning curve for Taylor and his line but not for the coaches who failed to remedy this in time.

    Silent Sam is a core player here and carries the Oilers torch,he has earned every step of the way,nothing was given to him and he has endured tremendous critique,as he has his entire career,some Pros face this stigma their entire careers and put up star numbers over that timespan.

    I predicted Sam would push for the scoring lead with Ebbs or Hall and I was absolutely right,I believe over 82 games he would have outscored Hall had Hall been managed properly
    on his line and not allowed to run wild so much and had Mps and Yak been put with and kept with Sam,Taylor wants to set his own learning curve,not gonna happen,wait till mac-T ties a 20lb weight to his inflight baggage with some PKing,and those rockets strapped to his feet get burned a little harder than they have so far.

    We have more skill and talent than minutes,so obviously we will see a correction here and there and there will be contractual realisations some good some not so good.Things have no reason to change unless some miracle brings the Oilers the NewAge Hockey System and they can generate sunstantially more offense without loseing the defensive integrity they now have systemiclly.

    An NHL 8 point night with all the Blue-bloods mouths hanging open watching their career platinum performance bar get jacked up over their heads by the most talented player on the roster.Jump in a time machine and go back and take the night back,or bite the bullet and man up.Or just ask Sammy real real nice what he was doing that night,good luck.I will bet you no other current Oiler will outdo that night and also that Sam will hit 6 points again next year at least twice maybe more if Yak is with him all year long,hell with yak he might reset the bar,ha ha ha.Finally I like stats.

      • PutzStew

        I believe any man who can present average NHL physicality and cerebral acumen has the potential to be a part of a Stanley Cup winning team.I dont believe stats are as connected to individuals as everyone thinks,I believe some players consistantly fail to maintain and intentionally break systemic continuity a lot more than others and catalyse their own offense mustang style.Ovie comes to mind.This would get you benched by me eventually,probably sooner than later,hallsy wouldnt like me much.Show me a stat that delineates between system induced offense and individually catalysed offense that is found outside of systemic influences and we will chat.

        Stats dont win games men do,and simply scoring goals doesnt win games,scoring timely goals win games.Silent Sam has the ability to score timely goals and make timely plays.There is no statistical valuation for decisionmaking acumen and timing,or instincts,or drive,or passion,or grit,jesus this is boring already,stats bashing is to easy and is now boring,no longer challenging.NOTHING of core value to the winning formula is stats based,zero,nada,nuntzig,bupkiss.

        Stats are what you see when you look over your shoulder and we all know what happens when you do that in any type of race rightÉIntuition is what tells you where to put the next foot.Which one do you want leading the charge.

        • Rocket

          Oh I agree Gagner has game. He plays with passion & puts team first so I’m not trying to ride the guy. I just don’t know if The Oilers can afford him & all the other kids. Something’s gotta give.

  • I honestly don’t think Sam will walk if he doesn’t get absolute top dollar. It’s the term he’ll be looking for. This is his gravy contract and I bet he knows it. 5 years anywhere north of $4M/yr gets it done.

    • Rocket

      Yeah no kidding. He put in his time & now wants to settle down with a nice long term contract. If this is MacT’s first decision, then it will live in infamy.

      (I don’t actually know if he wants to settle down)

  • 15w40

    What’s the going rate for an 2nd line winger that will see no time on the penalty kill and 2nd PP unit minutes??

    I can’t see over 4.0 avg on a 4 or 5 year deal.

    And there shouldn’t be a NTC or a NMC either.

    • GVBlackhawk

      Gagner was actually one of the most effective penalty killers on the Oilers this season. It was his 5v5 play that was something less than desirable.

      In my opinion, Gagner could make great strides in his overall game by shoring up his face-offs and cheating for defense. Specifically, he needs to do a better job covering his man in the slot area.

  • Citizen David

    I’m a huge fan of Gagner. In his case, I totally believe he hasn’t hit his prime yet. Only 23 years old. At 26 he could be scary. I would push hard for 4.25 for 5 years. Would settle at 4.5.

  • GVBlackhawk

    Perhaps we should send Gagner and Hemsky to our parent club the L.A. Kings for Bernier and their first round pick ? That way we can watch them in Stanley Cup quest next year with all the other Oilers we send them . Sometimes I wonder if we are not their farm club – even Gretzky .

  • 15w40

    Depending on who they pick up to shore up the centre position, I think #4, #14, and #93 may see more time on the PK.

    Pajaarvi, if he is still here will also see quite a bit of PK duty I’m guessing.

    Need somebody that can have at least a 50/50 success rate on the dot.

    I didn’t really know how much time Gagner spent on the PK but with his reported defensive short-comings, I would have thought there to be better options.

    I was surprised to see they ranked in the top 10

      • GVBlackhawk

        Gagner spent 1:35 TOI/60 4v5 — that is 6th among Oilers forwards who played 20+ games. And he only started getting PK ice time when Belanger (and Horcoff) went down with injuries.

        Finished with a Corsi Relative Quality of Competition of +2.996, which led the team.

        • 24% body fat

          Not something to brag about seeing our results I would say. I like Gags, but he gets pushed off the puck way to much in the offensive zone simply because of his size. If we keep him he needs size wingers, or he will remain by far ineffective in games except for a few good outtings when the other team is equally as physical as our game is.

    • 24% body fat

      gagner was the oilers best pk guy. he had a bad year. last year he lead the oilers in plus minus and had one of the better scoring chance differentials on the team. Last year the oilers leading scorer had the most scoring chances for but the worst differential on the team. Defensive game is a tough one to measure.

      • 15w40

        When I looked on the Oilers’ website, there were 21 names listed ahead of Gagner based on +/-.

        Not the only indicator but it doesn’t look great.

        Not that it matters to the PK as based on my understanding you don’t get a minus as a penalty killer if you are on for a goal against.

        Might be wrong.

        Edit: I’m not running #89 out of town – just commenting on where he might fit in the Oilers’ payrole structure

  • Word to the Bird

    Okay crazy thought here… But WHAT IF he picks up right where he left off in a points perspective? Would we be willing to cope with his small stature?

    • DSF

      In his last 20 games he scored 3 goals and 11 points. (-7)

      That pro-rates over an 82 game season to 12 goals and 44 points. (-28)

      Considering he played during the lockout and many other players were just getting up to speed, I’d be very wary of his production last season.

      When the games mattered, he was dreadful.

      • Supernova

        DSF ,

        You love to skew the field, and take small samples sizes.

        Trade Hemsky move gagner to wing ( or injury replacement 2C) draft a 2C.

        By the way you and I bantered about using the Canucks as a “model team” with their Centers.

        They would have loved to have a Horcoff type player rather than Roy.

      • GVBlackhawk

        Prorating on a small sample size…big surprise!

        Try prorating on his points streak and see what kind of numbers you get.

        All games matter. The points earned in game one are as important as the points earned in the final game.

      • CalgaryOilersFan

        In his first 20 games he scored 6 goals and 19 points (-4)

        That pro-rates over an 82 games season to 24 goals and 78 points (-16)

        That would have had him tied for 10th in overall points in 2011-12.

  • Mac-T Things to do.

    Get a top pairing defence men.

    Rebuild the bottom six , that’s 4 or 5 players.

    Get at least one, fast, bid, skilled center capable of a two way game and offence.

    Find and sign two goalies and draft another one.

    Buyout Horcoff and Belanger.

    Sign Gagner.

    Did I miss anything?

    How the hell does MacTavish do all this without trading someone?

    Gagner is good as gone or MacTavish is full of crap.

  • YEGFan

    This post covers the Sam Gagner issue from top to bottom:

    The ceiling is 4.5M but I doubt Gagner gets that. If he starts demanding more he will be traded. If he opts for a 1yr through arbitration he will be traded. He is unlikely to demand more than the 4.5M because there is plenty of precedent working against him and MacT can point to the same advanced statistics that you are all pointing to.

    If you can sign him for somewhere in the 4-4.25M range you would be foolish to trade him unless the other team is over paying. Some team might see him as a young, above average, second line centre who can put the puck in the net. That’s an attractive thing and somebody may be willing to pay a premium for it.

    If the Oilers are not getting a premium they should not trade Gagner, unless he is demanding over 4.5M, which he probably won’t unless he is unhappy with the team.

  • Oilers will sign and trade Gagner, or they might just trade him as is.

    There is no way the Oilers sign and keep Gagner long term. Mac said that he wants to get rid of the players that might have got use to losing-all Gagner knows is losing. When Mac praised Gagner and spoke about his plans for the future, he was giving Gagner and his agent some of that PR butter(I cant believe its not margarine)

    To sign Gagner to and keep him is a risk, just as much a risk as is putting Gagner on the wing. Gagner cant win a battle with a granny at a grocery store yet alone a NHL dman along the boards.(joke).but he is pretty weak on the puck.

    Gagner’s stats may suggest he deserves $4mil a year, but if you judge by his play and value to the team: dont give him over $3mil.

  • Time Travelling Sean

    That dreadful season of 44 points doesn’t seem so dreadful for a 2nd line C, and that’s using extremely conservative projections based off of a cold-streak which every player goes through.

    Turris was on pace for 49 points if this was an 82 game season.

    Krejci was on pace for 57 points in 82 games aswell.

    Doesn’t seem that far off, esp considering Gags was really on pace for 64 points.

  • NewfoundlandOil

    This talk of replacing Horcoff with Wellwood is a bit strange.

    I get the cap hit might be lower, but really who cares.

    MacT and much of the fan base insist the lineup needs to get bigger and there is one Wellwood stat that trumps all.

    Height: 5′ 10″
    Weight: 181

    I am not a big believer that size is the answer, but why bring in a smaller guy for the 3C or 2C slot just to save a couple mill in cap space/salary.

    MacT would get roasted for this move.

    See if you can sign Gagner at $4 Mil/over 3-4 years (move him to wing if another centre is available) and ride out Horcoff’s contract for another year, if he wants to stay. Trade Hemsky.

    • GVBlackhawk

      Nice contradiction. You don’t believe size is the answer but you clearly state that Wellwood is a small player…”there is one stat that trumps all”.

      And for the last time, you don’t want a 3C with a cap hit of 5.5M per season. Those dollars can be more effectively spent elsewhere.

      • NewfoundlandOil

        No not a contradiction at all. At least not for me.

        I am not a big believer that size is the answer.

        Given MacT’s stated objective to add size and the population’s desire for it why are we having a discussion re: Wellwood when the guy is 5’10” 181 lbs.

        So yes the notion of Wellwood as being a fit or replacement is contradictory to the stated objective of the team.

        I agree that Horcoff’s cap hit is undesirable for his current role, so thanks for pointing that out “for the last time”. But perhaps, barring a compliance buyout and someone better and more suitable coming along, they may be stuck with it.

        Edit: If Horcoff is game for a compliance buyout then I can see it happening, otherwise I think the organization is to loyal to buy him out without his blessing, and I don’t think the latter is a good thing.

  • YEGFan

    Is Wellwood the new Horcoff or the old Gagner? I can’t seem to keep up. I’ve never heard so much love for a player that has played on 4 teams in 6 years and has yet to break 50 points or 20 PIMs. I thought we were trying to move away from mediocrity?

    • GVBlackhawk

      Nobody wants Wellwood except for DSF.

      He was only used as a comparable to Horcoff (numbers wise) to show how over-valued Horcoff’s contract is. I.e. you can get a Horcoff-lite for 2.0M per season.

  • YEGFan

    I really have a tough time understanding the logic behind some people’s desperation to get Gagner out of town. I just went back to read the scouting reports on Sam Gagner before the 2007 draft and they are extremely positive using language like “vision,” “raises the game of everyone around him,” and “quick release.” Judging by the scouting reports he seems like he was head and shoulders ahead of Monahan is today. If Calgary were to offer the #6 pick straight up for Gagner (the same pick that was used to select him) would anyone turn them down? I am guessing the answer is an emphatic NO.

    That philosophy seems illogical to me. I just don’t understand the rationale behind rolling the dice again on a player who might possibly be as good as Gagner, very possibly could be worse, and has a shot at being better. I understand that this is the prevailing thinking in the NHL and comprehend the value of entry level contracts, but to me, Gagner is more valuable to the Oilers than even Sasha Barkov (straight up) would be next season, and weighted for probabilities of Barkov being a bust, through the length of their careers.

    I understand there are known holes in Gagner’s game, but they are the kind of holes that players rectify. There is a legitimate chance ANY draft pick amounts to an also ran AHLer, Sam Gagner is already known to be better than that.

  • 2004Z06

    This article is about Gagner, not Horcoff! So sick of the Horcoff crap. His situation will sort itself out over the next year or two. Let it go already!

    As for Gagner…He is one of the few assets that are in high demand over this summer. Very few centers available that are young and have no term left on contract. He is prime trade bait this year.

    If he stays, he needs to be moved to the wing. He lacks three prime assets that are a MUST in a centerman. His faceoff numbers are horrific, his size/physicality are lacking (not his fault, simply genetics) and he is a defensive liability in his own zone every time he is on the ice.

    Sign and trade, trade, or sign and move to the wing. Those are the only three options. Lots of teams looking for scoring depth out there. Hemsky + Gagner could bring back a solid D man or big C.

    I still think Burmistrov is a 2C option on the cheap….Could be great with Yakupov and maybe Nishushkin….

    • YEGFan

      First you say Gagner is valuable and everyone wants him because he is a young centre, then you say that he’s useless because he cannot play centre. He either is valuable as a centre and other teams will trade for him, or he is useless as a centre and therefore we cannot expect MacT to get anything of value for him. If the former is true the Oilers should think long and hard before they take a gamble on getting rid of him for someone like Burmistrov. If the latter is true then he is a bust and the professionals at other organizations will not offer you pieces that make this team significantly better. Personally, I think it is the former and the majority of your post is off the mark.

      Also, you are foolish if you do not consider the other players on the roster when discussing Gagner. Horcoff is 100% a legitimate discussion topic in this thread. If you do not understand why I honestly think you are over simplifying this and probably cannot come up with any insightful ideas. Not only that, but your post implies talking about Burmistrov is more relevant to the Oilers contract negotiations than talking about Horcoff is!

  • LinkfromHyrule

    I think Gagner gets signed, in the 4-4.5 for 4-5 year range. I hope he gets signed. You can’t place dollar value on the leadership skills he has. His give a crap meter is always at 100%.

    Also how in the heck do any of you think we can or should ship horcoff out? Who is going to want a 3C, 4C on a good team, center at 5.5 mil a year…. We would have to take on some of his salary and still get garbage in return. I would rather ship hemsky out personally

  • Interesting that everybody is so hot to trade one of the few assets on this team that have any actual value. Isn’t the point to acquire guys like that rather than trade ’em?

    Hemsky is gone. Horcoff is (probably) gone. PRV is a third-liner in the real world. Jones is not ultra desirable. That’s four guys with less value to this team you could add to the 7th pick to get that big C everybody wants. Then you buy the big D and move Sam to the wing.

    You give him $4.5M/Yr for 5 years, sit back and enjoy a 60 point winger who sets up Yakupov rockets all day long and be damn happy you didn’t pay any attention to the HockeyBuzz/Hockey’s Future/”BAM! Stanley Cup!” crowd.

    *Drops mic*

      • GVBlackhawk

        True,i was thinking ufa’s,a Horton type with Gagner,I think Hemsky needs to go but he’s not worth much,and i’m a Horcoff fan,i would have taken his contract too,but I think he and the oilers need to turn the page.

  • stretch14

    terrible move for the oilers to sign him long term…he must be moved IMMEDIATELY to bring in a player or two that helps compliment the core of Hall, ebs, nuge and yak…….alice, horcoff and gagner need to go, that money to be used for a #1Dman and 2 rugged fwds (clowe and Ott)….remember the window for the oil to win is within the next 4-5 yrs, no point wasting money on any player (im not picking on sam) that do not add size and grit….j. shcultz + the #1D we get + Hall, Ebs, Yak and Nuge are the stars we need…the rest should be heavy bodies who skate and physically demolish the opposition….

  • Admiral Ackbar

    Gags is great, I like him for the team and as a leader. Unfortunately he’s going to be expensive, perhaps too expensive for what this team can afford.

    Fortunately he just had, in my opinion, an overachieving season. This would suggest that he could fetch a fair bit above his true value on the trade market. I think there’s no shame in shopping around if he can’t be signed at a reasonable dollar amount. This team will have cap issues in the future.

    Furthermore, unless MacT sets an attack dog with rabies after Nuge, I think having our top 2 centers as physically soft as these two is a bad idea. Going forward, one of the top two forwards has to be the kind of guy that comes out of the corner with the puck more often than not. Currently that isn’t Nuge, nor Gags, nor Horcs, nor Smithson, nor Belanger.

  • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

    Anything over 3 million per year is a overpay. Gagner will make Horcoff’s contract seem like a bargin in hindsight.

    If MacT keeps Gagner then its time to find another team to follow……..

    • GVBlackhawk

      Ladies and gentlemen! It appears we have another ‘DSFian’ free agent on our hands.

      I realize it is difficult to stick with one team, especially when the manager doesn’t conform to one’s own irrational thought process.

      Good luck with the new team!

    • YEGFan

      Where on earth did you pull the 3M number from? If you look at comparable players in the league 4M is the low end of the going rate. You can not like it all you want but you are not finding someone who can put the puck in the net like Gagner for 3M.