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.

  • Rocket

    I’d trade Sammy Snowpants while the oil has the opportunity.. As soon as possible.

    Mr Snowpants will never win a cup, just look how much his former London Knight Patty Kane has done. Much more Than he ever will do. TRADE!!! He’s garbage on the dot and is a defensive black hole.

  • Oilers G- Nations Poet Laureate

    Gagner is going to get his dollars. At some point we are going to trade another of our young players (mostly due to future salary cap restraints). I think it is important for the oilers to get as much bang for their buck as possible. My thoughts are these, Oilers need to resign their young players in the future, so the less they sign Gags, the better. Also, if they trade Gagner in future, the better the contract, the more attractive terms of the trade. These may seem like obvious points, but the longer the brass stick to their guns the better.

  • DSF

    Overpaying a player because “he doesn’t complain” is nonsense.

    Chris Stewart was signed today for a cap hit of $4M over two years.

    Chris Stewart is a better hockey player than Sam Gagner by any metric.

    I can see paying Gagner $4.5M as a loyalty bonus.

    Anything over that is a big overpay.

    • “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.”

      Please, pay attention before going off as you tend to do..

      The “doesn’t complain” reference you took out of context isn’t a reason to pay Gagner $5 million. Other factors and the circumstances in this case will likely put him at or over that on their own. My point is, he’s also a solid guy and has been a loyal player who wants to stay here, which counts for something, whether you choose to recognize it or not.

      • DSF

        I read the Dellow piece quite a while ago and he has some salient points.

        The problem is, the Oilers overpay almost everyone and, at some point, need to find value contracts, not pay every player slightly more than market value.

        Over paying 5 players by $500K means you can’t bring in another $2.5M player when you need one.

        Death by paper cut.

        Being a “solid guy” and “wanting to stay here” is nothing more than Edmonton’s inferiority complex and, while it’s a noble sentiment I suppose, it is also very poor cap management.

        In my earlier comment, I allowed $500K for the “intangibles” you’re promoting but, based on production and Gagner’s lack of other “intangibles” like faceoff prowess, defensive play and inability to win puck battles, Gagner is NOT a $5M player.

        I expect the Oilers will pay him that much and that will be just one more small reason they remain uncompetitive.

        • J-Dogg

          I’m inclined to agree with this. 5 mill+ over 4 or more years and then you’re likely hoping on a favorable cap increase to bail you out or praying that you didn’t give him a no trade clause and that he’s still playing well enough that someone else thinks he’s worth the money. Either way we need space for bigger fish coming down the pipeline.

        • “In my earlier comment, I allowed $500K for the “intangibles” you’re promoting but, based on production and Gagner’s lack of other “intangibles” like faceoff prowess, defensive play and inability to win puck battles, Gagner is NOT a $5M player.

          I expect the Oilers will pay him that much and that will be just one more small reason they remain uncompetitive.”

          This is the kind of automatic out you leave yourself time after time. You state your case — sometimes reasonable, often not. “Sam isn’t a $5 M player.” If the Oilers pay him that, they’re fools and they’ve overpaid. They don’t understand the market as well as you do.

          If Sam takes a 1-year-deal or is handed one in an arb hearing and then becomes an UFA, the GM who gives him $5MX5 or slightly more — and somebody will — is a boob who doesn’t get it either. You’re never wrong, this way, are you?

          Sam will get $5M per season in any multi-year deal.

          • DSF

            I don’t doubt that he will.

            The issue is whether or not the Oilers should be the team to overpay him.

            What you haven’t addressed is that virtually every successful team has players on value contracts and, when Hopkins, Yakupov and Schultz, who are all likely “better” players than Gagner want to get paid, the Oilers will be hooped.

            MacT has to decide whether or not he wants to be the “boob”.

  • Rocket

    The delays in getting the deal done are probably due to whether the contract includes an NTC. $4.5M/year for a 2C that can’t backcheck will mean he has to be traded as soon as Nuge and Yak get their extensions.

    Do arbitrators look at Corsi?

    • bazmagoo

      “The sky is falling”. Chicken little said. Gagner has earned the 5×5 and with no disrespect to Yak and Nuge they have not put up the numbers longterm as Gagner. You hope Yak and Nuge will continue to progess as per the draft ranking. But in comparison you already have a bird in hand with Gagner. You know what your getting and to be frank 1 season does not entitle YAK to a 6 million dollar contract. The numbers for Yak will need to continue to improve over the next 2 years for him to get a 6 million dollar contract. I for one hope it does. Lastly what do you think the cap will be 2-3 years from now? I see it at 80-85 million. The league will add revenue via new TV contracts. HRR will increase as the NHL increases its gate revenue through new teams and relocating others(NYIslanders),new arenas coming online. The league is in growth mode coming out of the lockout. Look forward not backward.

  • Rocket

    Talk about a player getting messed up by management from the beginning. They take him to high in the draft, rush him to the NHL, & don’t give him a long contract to ensure loyalty (although he seems to like it in Edmonton.)

    Also, all the GM, coaching, & player changes he endured. He may or may not be worth 5mil but he should have been signed or traded by now so The Oilers are probably stuck with him for a while.

    Regardless of his pay, I wonder how his season will go, especially if he starts as the #1 C?

    Will that up his trade value or is that pretty much set at this point?

    • Oiler63

      Two ways to look at it, take him high in the draft, give him an unreal opportunity to play at 18, and make him earn his term and big contract.

      The reality is Gagner is not seen as the elite core in Edmonton. He was to prove it. These mishandling comments are pure bunk. Not all players have to be given a soother.

  • Kodiak

    Gagner. A good guy, a hard worker, mature for his age, puts up points. Is that enough to give him $5m+ a year? I still say no. You can ice 12 forwards like Gagner and not win. Players need to fill a certain role and I don’t see Gagner filling our 2nd line center role behind Nuge the way we need him to. He’s not big or physical and he’s weak defensively. A good guy who works hard and puts up some points but not someone you shell out big money to put in a role he’s not a great fit for.

    As far as getting paid by an arbitrator, there are too many close examples to Gagner making less than $5m. Arbitrators aren’t paying for UFA years either, so I’d guess he’d get $4.5m or less

  • Word to the Bird

    I was hoping Gagner would be our “value contract”. Every team needs a couple of value contracts to be competitive. Maybe Perron if his game picks up alongside Yak and Gags?

  • TayLordBalls

    Feb 2nd, 2012 Gagner scored four times and assisted 4 times to match Wayne Gretzky’s club record for points in a game.

    And I don’t think he’s reached his full stride yet.

  • bazmagoo

    I’ve been torn on what to think about Gagner and have been flip flopping the past few weeks. He won me over when he dropped the mitts with Beauchemin after he ran Hall. His offensive numbers are steadily improving and he brings a positive attitude to the rink all the time. One thing that’s rarely talked about is his pedigree, he was the #6 overall pick and is the son of a former top NHLer.

    I think 5 years at $5 million would be palatable to me as long as there isn’t a NMC/NTC included. With any combination of Hall, Eberle, Yak or Perron on his wings he’s likely to continue putting up solid numbers moving forward, making him an appreciating asset. Hopefully Eakins can instill some defensive mojo into his game and Sam can steadily improve in the faceoff circle or learn to play on the wing.

  • Citizen David

    Pay him now, and get some free agent years, because he is going to put up some good numbers if he plays with Yak and Perron. If you think $5 mill is too much now, wait till you see how much he can get on the free market next year….

  • Citizen David

    Love Gagner, even with the number ones coming in Gagner has always been a strong candidate for favourite Oiler if I had to name one. I would try to lock him up for 8 years at 4.5 or 4.75. If he wants 5 a year then I’d do a 5 x 5. If he wants more than 5… Then we might have to part ways.

  • toprightcorner

    I would prefer a 4 year contract so Gagner and Eberle don’t expire the same year. it will be important to stager Hall, Ebs, Nuge and Yaks contracts as signing two in the same year may be difficult. At $5 mill a year it needs to be a clean contract without any NMC. if he wants that then I say $4.5 mill. Then he is also a tool if in a couple years we need to make a significant move for a deep playoff push or someone who fills our needs at the time better than Gagner becomes available.

  • Citizen David

    If ever there was a guy who deserves to be compensated, it’s Gagner! Like you said Robin, the kid never complains and just goes about doing his job, professionally and with class.

    I just cannot fathom the Oilers putting him through this process for no reason, perhaps like some professional writers have suggested, that the no trade clause is the sticking point?

    Is there any other reason why the Oilers would not want to lock up player? I’m totally confused.

  • Citizen David

    I have no concern whether Gagner is signed long term or short term. I think long term the Oilers got to get bigger down the middle to really compete and I see Gagner being a valuable asset for trade. I think too often the Gagner apologist ignore the defensive zone lapses. Frankly its a shame an arbitrator would pay him 5.25 -5.5 based on comparables ignoring the fact he can’t win a draw, and is terrible defensively. Frankly just give him his money, and he can either improve defensively or we can trade him.

  • Citizen David

    I don’t think anyone would argue that I’d rather have Gagner at 5m per than Hemsky at this point. Here’s what I’d do – offer the 5m per, but make sure there’s no goofy contract options like NMC and NTCs. Essentially, you pay a little extra for that freedom to move him when and if you want to. How many contracts are there in the league right now that are structured decently in terms of dollars but suck for the teams because the player has an NMC/NTC that seriously hampers how much value or leeway that team has to move them down the road? Quite a few. Maybe it’s worth to pay a little more and still have that freedom down the road.

    If it’s one things I give kudos to the Oilers for, it’s for their general unwillingness to throw those things around like candy. See Calgary’s mess a little while ago to see just how well that generally goes over in the long run.