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.
ALL THE FINE PRINT
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.
THE WAY I SEE IT
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.