After six NHL seasons of being a loyal and productive company man with the Edmonton Oilers, doing his job and never, that I’ve heard, uttering so much as a discouraging word about an employer that’s been a gong show more often than not during his tenure, Sam Gagner is gonna get paid. And he should.

The only questions about the pending pay day are how much Gagner will get and in what increments he’ll get it as he and the Oilers stare down a scheduled arbitration hearing Monday morning – a hearing that’ll likely never convene.

If, in the highly unlikely event the hearing does go ahead, or if the sides agree on a one-year pact before the hearing for, say, $4.75 million, then Gagner will become the youngest UFA in NHL history at the end of next season, meaning the Oilers will simply have delayed the day he cashes in, here or elsewhere.

The way I see it, given what GM Craig MacTavish has already said about wanting to lock up Gagner long-term, what makes sense is announcing a new multi-year deal before the hearing, having a nice big group hug as a photo-op and then moving on.

If that’s what the Oilers want, as I suspect it is, and they want to buy Gagner’s 2013-14 RFA season and, say, four UFA years, then it’s going to cost them $25 million, minimum, to do it. My, how that’ll make the Gagner haters squirm.


So, after six seasons toiling for an organization that’s been a laughing stock most of the time, and that’s missed the playoffs seven straight years, Gagner’s in a rare position at the age of just 23. Coming off a one-year contract that paid him $3.2 million, he can negotiate a one-year deal with the Oilers or take one from an arbitrator and then be an UFA going into 2014-15.

The question about what Gagner is worth to the Oilers, and on the open market, has been a topic of hot debate, especially in the last couple of days. I see it one way – my interpretation of the market says it’ll take that $5 million per. Others, like Jason Gregor, see it differently.

All kinds of "comparables" have been thrown out in argument of one number or another that fall well outside the relatively narrow scope of comparables in arbitration hearings as defined by the CBA. Some people look only at points. Others argue Gagner’s worth based on size or his place in the pecking order in Edmonton – practical issues, but not necessarily issues that matter even a bit in an arbitration hearing or at the bargaining table.

The most comprehensive analysis I’ve seen on the subject has been done by Tyler Dellow and can be found here. My argument as to Gagner’s worth is far less structured and, like that of many fans, much of it falls into the category of not mattering a bit in an arbitration hearing or at the bargaining table, as well.


To repeat my opening sentence, I view Gagner as a loyal and, yes, productive company man who brings exactly the kinds of qualities that MacTavish has said he values. Gagner’s a good, not great, player. He’s a good teammate. He’s a player who cares about the guy next to him and has shown he’ll stand up not only for himself, but his teammates as well. He’s a good pro.

I’ve always found Gagner mature beyond his years. When he performs well, he downplays it or shares credit with others. When he stinks, and there’s been more than one night when he has, Gagner owns it and makes no excuses. That holds true on the record and off it. Often, those are two different stories.

I haven’t seen Gagner bristle once as younger players like Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Nail Yakupov have come in with more fanfare and taken over the marquee. Some other veterans have. Not Gagner, who isn’t exactly without pedigree as a sixth overall pick.

When I add in some of the intangibles I’m talking about to comparisons I see in the piece Dellow wrote, I don’t think it’s a stretch to believe that Gagner is a reasonable buy at $1 million less a season than Hall and Eberle just signed for. That means $5 million a season.

Ka-ching. Pay the man.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • Slapshot

    Darren Dregor is reporting Gagner is asking for 5.5 million if that’s the case send him on his way.Thats 1st line center money and Gagner is not a top line center.who would you rather have Taveras at 5.5 or Gagner ?

    • Quicksilver ballet

      Do you remember what the Oilers qualified Sam at? 3.75 wasn’t it? This has proven to be, not that far off the mark at all. Greed has crept into his gameplan, one year too soon it seems.

      Credit to Brownlee on this effort. He recognized the devision on this issue, combined it with the hot button money issue, and rubbed it in our faces. lol

  • If the TSN report is true and gagner wants $5.5m. Screw him. Give him his contract and trade him. I was a gagner supporter until I heard that. I was ok with $5m, even tho his defensive game is weak, but that was on the high end. Play him with hall and ebs, get his point totals high, then ship him out with the door slamming behind him.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      The player in arbitration always asks more. Heck he could of said 6 mil. If this years comparable player contracts are used, Bozak or Weiss and Riberio, then he will probably get rewarded 4.2-4.9. I am confident the Oilers and Gagner settle in the 5m x 5-6 years. With the cap going up going up to 70 mil maybe higher, that is a reasonable tradable contract.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    How come Edmontons “market” is so out of whack with the rest of the league?

    Bettman has probably been approached by Edmonton in regards to this matter. Exhibit A, David Clarkson turning down 6 mill per to sign a 5.25 deal. Was the magic number 7 per?

    Maybe it’s time B markets start pushing Bettman for a Northern Living Allowance type benifit, so to speak.

    • toprightcorner

      Not this again , blah, blah, blah.

      You should try to get a little bit of positivity in your life, or at least your comments. You may find it a breath of fresh air, I know most of us would.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      If you were young, fit, rolling in cash, and had primo tail coming at you from all angles…and if you could choose any city in N. America to live in… would you want to waste the best years of your life in Edmonton?

      • Unfair question.

        Quicksilver is none of the above — he eats $2 steak, lives in a single-wide somewhere, walks around wearing crazed clown make-up and the only thing he rolls in is his own vomit — and there are no “best” years in his life, so he cannot possibly answer this.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        Entry level players are just looking to become established NHL players anywhere during their ELC yrs. Not a lot of money is made during this ELC/RFA time. For the chosen ones, most of that wealth comes during the last 7-10 yrs in the league. The Oilers are a feeder system, allowing these players to get their start/established until they have the right to call their own shot. Edmonton isn’t such a bad place if you’re able to live the NHL life, until you’re ready to make that jump to an A market team. Where would the Oilers be today if Hall,RNH,Eberle,Yakupov weren’t of this mindset/obligated to be here.

        Even Robin Brownlee rolled his doublewide down the No.1 to eek out a living here, so Edmonton can’t be all that bad.

  • 15w40

    Was it not the GM that said they needed more “meat” in the line up. If RNH, Hall, Eberle, & Yak r untouchable who do u move?

    Gagner is a good player & can play on this team but if you are adding size all in the bottom 6 is that the best use of resources?

    We will know in about 48 hrs or less

  • don’t get me wrong, Gagner plays hard, noone is arguing that. but he sure as hell doesn’t play “big”. I just can’t pay him that kind of money, when a guy like bozak just signed for 4.2 over 5. I’d argue that although the pt/gm are a bit different, they are a similar value. no way anything close to 5.5. I’d be fine with a 4yr 4.5-4.75 ltd ntc if that’s the case.

  • If the argument is that Gagner has not played on good teams, how much of that is owned by a player who was featured on scoring lines for 6 years, but didn’t do much scoring? Does the fact that his team did so poorly project to a player who will not be able to contribute to a winner?

  • toprightcorner

    MacT has a much bigger picture to look at over the next couple years. Many other significant contracts to sign and he needs to figure out which ones will help the Oilers more in a couple years when they plan to be competitive and which ones have skill sets that are more easily replaceable.

    Nuge next year probably $5.5 if lucky a bridge contract of $4 but not likely. Definite #1C with potential of being top 10 centre’s in the league. Not replaceable.

    Yak in 2 years probably $5 as he will have one, if not two 30+ goal seasons. Projects to be an elite goal scorer that could approach 40 a year. Not likely replaceable

    JSchultz next year hopefully a bridge at $3.75 but after that probably closer to $5. Great offensive skills that can QB any PP. Likely a top 2 dman with the right partner. Possibly replaceable.

    IMO Gagner is probably the easiest one to replace his skills. Probably can’t replace everything he has to offer with one person but of those that can’t are already likely within the team already.

    If Gagner is asking for $5.5 then he will probably get $5, possibly $4.75 but unless MacT offers him $5.25 to $5.5 on a term of 4+ years, Gagner will likely try to cash in on FA. If he has another good year, he could easily get $5.5 longter as a UFA with the cap going up, especially being a rare UFA that is just approaching his prime. If he has a poor season, he would probably still get $4 on a 1 year contract and hope to cash in the following year. Gagner is looking to hit a homerun within the next couple years.

    I think Gagner will be ranked 5th in our group of forwards in 2 years time and you can’t pay $5 for a player of that ranking. Instead of keeping him for only 1 year MacT should try to fill another hole if possible, a top pairing dman would be a great victory as those are not that easy to obtain.

    If a centre does not come in return of trading Gagner then there is Grabovski tat can be signed. He is not as good as Gagner but the much lower cap hit would even it out in other areas.

    I don’t want to see Gagner go but with how the situation looks, it might be the time to make a bold move and reconfigure the dynamics of the team.

    Possible options off the top of my head:

    Gagner, Petry, Hemsky (retain max cap possible) and pick or prospect to PHX for Yandle, Vermette and Moss. You could then sign Grabovski for under $4 and we would be very strong down the middle, even with Nuge missing some time.

    Gagner, Petry, Larsen and Hemsky half cap or 1st round pick for Tyutin, Dubinsky and MacKenzie. CBJ deep on back end and need offensive play makers to play with Gaborik. MacKenzie gives us a good 4C that wins FO and kills penalties, not big but aggressive and hit a lot

    Tough decision for MacT but either way it goes it will greatly affect the team for years.

  • nuge2drai

    are you kidding me ?? WAY OVER PAID- Trade him and get some of our other needs filled. If this team continues to pay big $$ to this group of so called smurfs we will continue to be on the outside looking in. Trade him and try and get a top pairing D or get us a center that can win face offs.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        I meant they’re both thankless ingrates who don’t appreciate what the Oilers have done for their development or paycheque to the extent that they filed for mediation

        • A player bargaining for the best deal he can get under the terms of the CBA — agreed to by NHL teams and the NHLPA — means he doesn’t appreciate the team? Really? Does that mean a GM bargaining for the best deal he can get doesn’t appreciate the player?

          Strange perspective.

          • Quicksilver ballet

            Sorry, some confusion. I’m talking specifically about how RFA Mike Comrie, who the Oilers found a way to pay 2nd contract money to through easy bonuses and loaded pp time, and RFA Sam Gagner, who made an impact in exactly one game in 6 years, but played all six of those years on the top two lines of an NHL team, treated the Oilers. When RFA Boris Mironov was about to get paid, I blamed Sather for trading him rather than paying the guy, who played like a dog for this club and loved the city to pieces.