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.

  • vetinari

    I’d rather that the Oil sign Sam for $4.5M to $5.25M per year than continue to take Horcoff’s cap hit for the next few seasons. A second line centre gets paid in that range and produces Sam’s numbers– we just currently pay Horcoff Gagner’s next contract. Fix it MacT!

    • Lowetide

      Horcoff makes $4M this coming season and $3M the following year. That isn’t out of the range for a 3line C who can carry a load.

      $5.25M times 4 for Gagner is a lot of money, it really is. You’re paying for PP numbers he may never reach again (I doubt he plays heavy PP minutes with Nuge around) and there are youngsters coming up who are going to get paid.

      I’m a Gagner supporter, but the number is critical.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Oilers shouldn’t sign him. He’ll be worth more on the market if he’s unsigned when he’s dealt. Not everyone runs their ship the way the Oilers do. If anything, the Oilers are the model of how things shouldn’t be done. Let the new team do business with Gagner on their terms. Don’t saddle him with a slightly bloated contract.

    Even better yet, maybe a team signs him to an RFA offer sheet. Oilers could sure use another 1st, 2nd and 3rd next season. Keep pumping those tires of his Craig.