Sam Gagner: Getting Down To Brass Tacks

The negotiating positions of Sam Gagner and the Edmonton Oilers were made a little clearer on Saturday, as the asks of both parties at arbitration were published by prominent members of the media.

The News

What It Means

The obvious read here is “split the difference” – one year at $4.5 million. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that’s the fair value of Gagner’s final season as a restricted free agent.

If the Oilers want to lock up Gagner on a three to five year deal, the question then becomes ‘what is the value of Gagner as an unrestricted free agent’? What kind of deal will Gagner get next summer, as the youngest ever UFA and the salary cap rising? Valtteri Filppula got $5 million per year for five years with a no-move clause this summer in a season where the cap fell as sharply as it’s likely to at any point in the foreseeable future. Gagner, by the way, has outscored Filppula on average over the last five seasons, is six years younger, and nearly doubled the latter’s point production this season.

I think it’s reasonable to imagine Gagner getting $6 million per season from a team desperate for a scoring NHL centre, and perhaps even more. An estimate of $5.5 million per year on a long-term deal is probably a conservative starting point.

What would that look like?

  • Three-year deal. One year at $4.5 million, two at $5.5 million = $5.17 million cap hit
  • Four-year deal. One year at $4.5 million, three at $5.5 million = $5.25 million cap hit
  • Five-year deal. One year at $4.5 million, four at $5.5 million = $5.30 million cap hit

Yesterday, Robin Brownlee suggested that a five-year deal was going to come at a minimum price of $25 million. I think he’s right – further, I suspect that if the Oilers could get Gagner signed to that deal they’d take it.


He isn’t worth that, he’s done nothing to show he’s worth that kind of money. Say it with me: a player is worth whatever the market will pay him. In the NHL system, a limited number of players every year become unrestricted free agents. There’s always more need for high-level unrestricted free agents then there is supply, which drives the price up on those players. Gagner might have been the top UFA centre on the market if he’d been eligible this summer; he’ll be there or close to it next year too. He’s going to get paid.

He’s not worth what Taylor Hall or Jordan Eberle is worth. Is Sam Gagner a better player than Taylor Hall? Of course not. But that’s not the question. When Hall signed his seven-year extension, the Oilers bought four years of restricted free agency and three years of unrestricted free agency. Let’s imagine Gagner’s contract, using the numbers above, with those years:

  • Seven-year deal. Four years at $4.5 million, three at $5.5 million = $4.93 million cap hit

Suddenly, that seems pretty reasonable. It works in reverse, too – Taylor Hall isn’t getting a $6 million cap hit if he’s one year away from unrestricted free agency. Corey Perry got $8.625 million from the Ducks with a no-move clause, and while he has a more established track record which of those two players is the better bet to outperform the other over the next eight years? Personally, I’d be in Hall’s corner. This is why teams love young talent – because of the RFA years, it’s cheaper to buy than old talent.

He signed for $3.2 million a year ago! Exactly. If the Oilers had pushed hard for a long-term deal a year ago, they probably would have got one with a reasonable cap hit. Instead, that wasn’t a priority for the team, likely because they weren’t comfortable making that kind of commitment. It’s one of the myriad reasons why it’s a good thing for the team that Steve Tambellini isn’t running it any more. The one-year signing a year ago was a bad decision when it was made, and the cost of that decision is coming due now.

The Oilers can’t afford to pay him what he wants. I think there’s a case to be made they can, but I have some time for this argument. The Oilers need a second line centre; if they can get one via trade or free agency for less money (or a player who is a better fit for the role) than absolutely they should consider that. For both parties, it’s about making the best decision – for Gagner, getting the best contract he can, for the Oilers finding the best balance between fit and cost in the second line pivot position. My view is that I’d be comfortable signing Gagner at five million per season over five years, but that I’d be calling Grabovski’s agent just in case.

Recently around the Nation Network

Depressed by the Gagner negotiations? Here’s a case for Matt Stajan as Calgary’s first-line centre:

Matty Franchise, as I’ve outlined, is basically the best offensive center on the Flames, barring poor contract management. This is hilarious, given his recent pro-rated point totals of 33, 23, and 43. He’s been outright buried by coaches and vilified by fans writers. Stajan is basically the epitome and the greatest legacy of the Sutter era. I can’t help but think I’d giggle every time I see Stajan on the ice with Baertschi, Cammalleri and/or Glencross.

Click the link to read more, or alternately, feel free check out some of my other pieces here:

  • Cowbell_Feva

    I’m not sure why there are so many Gagner haters. Horcoff I could understand….he had a quarter the offensive skill, was a wussy (I want to start that last word with a P) and had the horrible contract. Thankfully his ship has sailed.

    Sam, like Horc, isn’t great on the draws. The reason I like Sam more is because he has dropped his gloves with guys that are twice his size. Beauchmin, J. Johnson, Kesler off the top of my head. Conroy at center ice was another. If the entire team played with the heart that he does, this organization would be much better off.

    Saying that I would hate to overpay him right now due to market value, and then maybe have to try and undercut J Schultz, Yakcity or Nuge in the next coupla years to fit into the cap at that point in time.

    On top of this (as it was mentioned before) the last thing I would want for Gags is the Horcoff treatment due to his contract.
    Maybe Sam and Hemmer could be packaged for Yandle, with some spare parts coming/going??

    Phoenix would instantly improve in the shootout department!!

  • Oiler63

    Remember back in 2011, Shea Webber asked $8.5 and Nashville countered $4.75. They settled at $7.5. I don’t think Gagner’s camp expect they will get 5.5. His FMV is around $5. If he takes anything lower than that I’d throw in a NTC.

  • Muji

    Just sign him. Even if it takes 5 x $5.5M.

    It’s unfortunate that we’re not getting a discount (thanks Tamby), but whatever. We need him and he deserves it; he deserves it because the market is willing to pay him that much.

    Some might be thinking, “oh no! if we pay Gagner that much we can’t keep the kids!”. I disagree because:
    – we need a 2nd line Center anyway; you might be able to get a cheaper one than Gagner (how would you do that anyway besides Grabo???), but not that much cheaper
    – the cap is going up
    – If you pay him $5.5M, you’re “overpaying” about $500K? That’s nothing

    My only concern is that Gagner is dead set on becoming a UFA next year. If so, then there’s really nothing we can do*

    *aside from signing Grabo and trading Gagner for assets

    • Stack Pad Save

      How is he greedy? He is negotiating. What is with the personal attacks on the guy for trying to get paid? IF anyone is greedy it is the NHL and it’s owners. The Oilers make more money off of Sam Gagner’s work than they will ever pay him. SO who is greedy?

      • Wax Man Riley

        Every time I meet with my boss I’m negotiating a higher pay. If you aren’t, then that is a silly move by you (the universal you, not you specifically).

        I can’t fault Horco….. I mean Gagner for wanting to get paid.

  • Joy S. Lee

    Could the Oilers take 1 step back and two forward.

    Trade Gagner for a prospect or a younger player.

    They are not making the playoffs this year. So you must weigh your options.

  • Word to the Bird

    I think I know what’s going on here…

    This is just my opinion, but maybe because of his point production last year, his age, and his role on the team, he thinks he’s on par with the superkids. I can’t totally disagree but I wouldn’t completely agree either. My worry is that his play tails off after a year of signing a huge contract.

    Look, we get it Gagner, you’re good. You don’t want to get traded and I understand that. But $ or NTC, make your pick. You can’t have both.

  • If i was the Oilers, I’d let him go. In my mind he is not nearly as good as he thinks. I agree more with the position (value-wise) that the Oilers are taking. There is no way in hell, Gagner is worth 5.5 That is obscene. I think it might be time to seriously start looking for a different 2nd line centre.

    • Stack Pad Save

      What are the legitimate options for a 2nd line center beyond Grabovski right now? I am not even sure Grabovski is really that much of an improvement over Gagner.

      I would like to see the Oilers make a move to get Brayden Schenn out of Philly to fill that 2nd line center role.

        • Word to the Bird

          Apples to oranges. Couturier has more POTENTIAL than Gagner (I try to avoid saying that because how do you judge potential). They believe that Couturier will become the better player long term. Plus he’s a different player than Gagner. Philadelphia also has the worst cap management of any franchise, so there’s no way they have the space to take on… I’m sorry give me a minute… FIVE AND A HALF million dollars a year. Any questions?

    • Stack Pad Save

      Sam deserves more than Sean Couturier… What has Couturier done to prove his is worth more than 1.75?

      Just because you don’t like Sam Gagner for the Oilers doesn’t mean he isn’t worth close to 5 milllion in the market.

      • OilersBrass

        Ughhh when exactly did I say I don’t like Gagner or he isn’t worth it? I’m one of the few on here who are always quick to defend Gagner.

        I can’t just stat a fact that another player got a contract extension, while the Oilers are still in limbo with Gagners contract?

        Who took a leak in your corn flakes this morning?

        • Stack Pad Save

          Apparently you peed all over my cornflakes, but don’t get your undies in a bunch, all I was pointing out to you was the fact that Sam Gagner has done more to earn more than Courturier. Also the 2 contracts are not comparable. I also think that a lot of people are mixing in their emotional dislike for Gagner and the Oiler’s nearsightedness in not addressing their softness down the middle and taking it out on Sam Gagner unreasonable just because he is negotiating a new deal.

          • OilersBrass

            Once again… I was trying to compare the two, I was simply stating that another centre has gotten a contract extension while Gagner hasn’t.

            I think Gagner is definitely worth the money because we have yet to see the best of him. There’s only so much a player can do in one of the worst teams in the league. I say pay him 4.5 this year, and have him prove to the Oilers during the season that he’s worth 5.5.

  • vetinari

    Pay the man and try to lock him up at around $5M per year on a 5 year deal… just make sure that you leave out any NTM clauses so that if things don’t work out, you have options.

  • Bucknuck

    Ha! If ST had done that last year all the Gagner haters would have suffered a head explosion. I loved watching them STFU this year while Gagner piled on points.

    And now I am not quite so smug, since his great season might result in him having to leave town. It’s bloody ironic, like seeing Todd Marchant leave when he finally had a great season.

    • Word to the Bird

      I heard them loud and clear, when the pucks went in the wrong net. You just were not listening. I heard them loud and clear when Hemsky got hurt and he could not score worth a damn at the end of the season, unfortunately the pucks still went in the back of the net too. People notice when the puck goes in the wrong net my friend.

    • Word to the Bird

      If I’m not mistaken, nobody had an issue with Gagner being signed on a one year contract last year. You think maybe there is some hindsight going on here?

  • Mjolnir

    Sam should be arrested for price gouging during a crisis. I hope and pray this doesn’t turn out like Horcoff. I guess we could always trade him for Louongo next year.

    • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

      From the day you decided to name yourself Mr common sense, your comments and your name have not had a lot in common since.

      • nuge2drai

        Oiler Domination To Follow

        Is that a joke?

        Tavares 11-12: 31 Goals/50 Assists

        Gagner 11-12: 18 Goals/29 Assists

        Tavares 12-13: 28 Goals/19 Assists

        Gagner 12-13: 14 Goals/24 Assists

        Why would this clown want the same money as Tavares.

        One of these players is an all star franchise player, the other a questionable second line center who is questionably one dimensional.

        Trade Him, this negotiation is getting ridiculous.

        • Word to the Bird

          Imo Tavares is awfully overrated. Hall has performed just as good if not better than JT in his years in the NHL. I’m not saying Hall is better, but JT isn’t as good as people say he is.

        • nuge2drai

          Oiler Domination To Follow

          249 points in 291 games for Tavares.

          258 points in 414 games for Gagner.

          Sam Gagner will become the new Horcoff and be public enemy #1 if he signs for Tavares type money. Tavares had a 50 goal pace this year, that’s a career high point pace for Gagner.

          All the fans an writers who are foolishly saying pay the man now, will be cursing MacT for overpaying a midget who can’t hit, with an face off, or play defense and, demanding a trade or buyout.

          Don’t be that writer or fan, it’s common sense he’s worth 4.25 max, give him a bridge deal and let him prove he’s a top six center man who can improve on the dot and improve his defensive game.

          3 years X 4.25 million.

          Does anyone want to see the fans turn on Sam and run him out of town. Id hate to see that happen, but it’s inevitable if he signs for 4.5+

          • Reg Dunlop

            There is zero chance he signs for $4.25

            If that’s your benchmark You might as well start complaining now.

            Mgmt backed themselves into this corner. Being delusional about it doesn’t help. I also think $4 for a latte at Starbucks is a rip, but thats the going rate. If I don’t like it, go to 7-11 and get the powdered stuff for $1. I can’t go to Starbucks and say I’m only paying $1.50 cause thats all its worth. Even though it is.

            Its called the real world.

            Filppula had 9g,8a, 17pts this year. He is 30. His career high is 66pts ONCE, and he averages well under 50 pts. He got $25 mil over 5 years, and most players are ‘post-apex’ at 30. Sam is just entering his sweet spot.

            You can say he isn’t worth it all you want, but someone will pay him. Its either us or someone else. And nobody will offer up much in a trade because they know we are screwed….

            Good job Mr Dithers.

  • Craig1981

    Thanks, that was a well written and thought out posting……still people will argue..
    I would of liked a paragraph destroying the argument of how small he is. 200lbs at 23 is pretty solid (even more-so when you factor in the fact he is on crazy shape)

    As well people can’t argue you need a bigger center AND you can’t sign him for 5+ cause you can’t afford it. Look what Carlson got on the open market!!!! If you can’t afford to sign Gagner when he is a RFA there is no way you can afford to sign a Big UFA center……..and trading for one is near crazy hard and costly (look what NYI gave up for just Clutterbuck AND what the signed him for)

    • Bucknuck

      I see gags quite often at Ruth’s Chris. I’m 6’2 210 and in great shape. There’s no way he’s 200. More like 180. NHL teams always enhance those stats. Taylor hall is more like 5’11 than 6’1… Fact is, we’re very small up front. If gags wants 5.5 that’s an actual joke. He’s soft as butter and isn’t good defensively. Not saying he’s a bad player but he’s not worth 5.5 especially knowing we will need to sign nuge, yak, Shultz all within 2 years.

      • Craig1981

        Well I’m not going to arm wrestle you over this then, but……
        From what I read and heard he is not in great shape, but insane shape. Trains as hard as any NHL player according to several reports. Dressed in a suit may not be the best way to judge, though its not without question some teams pad their stats….but not 20 lbs
        Why is he soft? He has played against men since he was 18 and never missed that many games, fights, threw the 2nd most amount of hits from their top 6 last year, and plays with heart.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        I’m too poor to go to Ruth’s Crisp to stare at Oilers, but when at the NHL combine they get measured and weighed that is a pretty much as close to accurate, correct me if I am wrong. I thought Hall and Nuge and all these guys were pretty much what they were listed at. When you say Hall is 5’11” when the combine says Hall’s 6′.05”, what am I suppose to believe.

          • Quicksilver ballet

            No, sorry, wrong again, sir.

            If you can’t fire up the BBQ and create a far better meal at home, then you need to turn in your man card to Mr. Willis, at your earliest convenience.

            Take one 2 lb chuck steak, season lightly with some montreal steak spice, grill to preference and on the last turn on each side, brush each side with some S/S Smokin Hot Stampede BBQ sauce. Add veggies if you’re so inclined. I challenge you to find a better 2 dollar steak anywhere in this world.

          • Quicksilver ballet

            Quite the contrary. I bring home tenderloin when I do the shopping, and she brings home something else when she does the shopping. What’s a guy to do, throw it out?

          • And then you can sit around with Bubbles and Conky and Ricky and burn blunt until you wake up in a puddle of your own puke.

            Chuck steak? FFS. Cut the soles off a pair of work boots, the ones you wore when you had that gig as a flagger for three weeks before sliding back onto EI, and season lightly . . .

          • Quicksilver ballet

            That’s quite the visual you created there Robin, are you sure you’re not speaking from your own personal experience there?

            Like most here i’m sure, i prefer tenderloin. I don’t care what it costs, cause its just so damn good. Not sure how it rates according to other cuts, but its good enough for me, especially after a hard day at the Unicorn crossing that I work at.

            Edit; wow, Brownlees fishing with bullets again I see. Oilersnations very own Elmer Fudd.

          • Quicksilver ballet

            Don’t get me going on this whole fairy dust thing. You guys all know how passionate I am about neon colored glitter.

            DSF is no worse than the rest of us. He, like us, cares very much about whats happened here these last 8 yrs. He maybe feels more passionate about some issues than we do. He’s as hopeful as we are about getting this thing turned around. I’d like to see his change in perspective of things, if they do eventually get turned around here. I want to see the Oiler fan in DSF again.

          • Reg Dunlop

            I disagree. He is far worse than the rest of us. He writes things to provoke a response rather than to inspire rational conversation. He passionately dislikes the Oilers and uses subjective arguments to single out the Oilers’ misgivings without. When you pick and choose your material while intentionally excluding other material to objectively rationalize a thought, most would call that propaganda. Or at least BS. There is no Oiler fan in DSF, I am not sure there ever was one, but if it was there, it died a long time ago.

            Case in point – he wrote a bunch of crap yesterday to knock Gagner as a player, but ignored things like Tyler’s careful analysis. Always wants the last word, so it is very curious that my challenge to him has gone unanswered. I pose it to him once again, as he thinks there is no evidence to suggest Gagner is an offensive player. Here it is again.

            “I propose to you, DSF, that Gagner gets 0.7+ ppg this season, so put your money where your mouth is. If he does it, then you never post on this site or LT’s ever again. He doesn’t, and I’ll support you for every one of your asinine posts for the rest of the decade.”

          • Quicksilver ballet

            We all post things here that we as fans believe to be accurate/true. They’re called passionate opinions and are usually best taken with a grain of salt. I won’t get in your way at tearing at his flesh here if you need. I just see his opinions as though they are coming from a long time disappointed Oilers fan. If you look at his opinions in a similar context, they actually make sense. He’s seen the best of times, and the worst of times. I’m not going to get in the way of him expressing his opinion.

            I feel fortunate that we have an open minded place to come to and express our opinions and not have then screened by someone pushing an agenda. Maybe those who are old enough to have seen the glory days are damned to disappointment as punishment.

          • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

            Are you implying that I have an agenda? I am asking DSF to back up his comments. He continues to ignore this challenge. So what am I to believe? That he is a passionate fan, or that he passionately wants to disagree with individuals on threads of evidence that follow logic, but doesn’t have the balls to follow through with his “passionate” but ignorant assertions. He is dragging Gagner’s name through the mud, like he has done to many others in the organization. I am not a supporter of what has transpired in many ways, but he doesn’t know f-all about Gagner the person or the hockey player.

            You ironically are optimistically defending someone who you think is a pessimist. You are also accusing me at tearing the flesh of someone who does this without courtesy to others and snubs his nose at both the MSM and the “advanced stats guys” – seriously, I would love to hear his discertation about how his formula seems to supercede both of these. I view things differently. Look up the definition of oppositional defiant disorder and you’ll see what I mean.

          • Quicksilver ballet

            Not at all, I tend to agree with his view of these forensic statistical categories. They can often be manipulated to conform with ones argument. While I do admit he’ll fall back on these numbers when it strengthens his argument at times.

            It’s easy to become a pessimist after what this team has put us through in recent yrs, what’s wrong with second guessing the people who put us in this mess in the first place?

            This ODD you spoke of, is that something the mathletes over at DarkHorse analytics created? What is fact, or what is fiction here on Oilersnation, it’s all gray area. The authors of these articles go to great lengths to back there arguments up with facts, but the posters/contributors here are mostly trying to present their own personal opinions as fact.

            We’ve all heard for yrs now about the holes in Sam Gagners game. Maybe if even your so called imperfect DSF can tear him down so quickly, we should admit, having 89 as our second line center might not be the best option. I firmly believe the only reason he’s an Oiler today is because MacTavish hasn’t found a way to get something tangible for him in return. This potential deal for 89, screams of Horcoff/Hemsky all over again.

          • Bucknuck

            I rarely agree with Quicksilver, but I enjoy the banter. And most times I can see his point, even if I don’t agree.

            DSF works at the fairy dust factory? I didn’t know that’s what they are calling the Vancouver Canuck Dressing room lately, but it sounds appropriate somehow.

          • MKE

            DSF is alot of things.

            -Stuck in his moms basement

            -Mike Gillis

            -A horrific GM with an even worse ego…

            And sure. We can go there about the Canucks dressing room lol. Why not..

            And I’m with you. I rarely agree with QS but I like him. You can tell he actually cares and just wants to see a good team in Edmonton. I think most of us want that

          • Clyde Frog

            EDIT: Sorry to see you go, Rob. You don’t get to call me names. I’m poking fun at Quicksilver, as I’ve done before, because I quite like how warped he can be. You, clearly, aren’t aware of that and chose to jump in the middle. Now, you’re gonzo-Alonzo. Adios.

          • justDOit

            I would add to this that the steak be at room temp for at least an hour before it is cooked.

            Also, I’ve recently been converted from grilling to pan fry. A nice, big cast iron pan at 500 degrees and some good quality coconut oil in it.

            After you’ve cooked it to your preference, remove the steak and tent on a warmed plate for 5 minutes. Remove the heat from the pan, add chopped garlic and some butter. The pan should still have enough heat in it to cook the garlic nicely. When done, splash in some red wine, let that sit a minute, and then pour all that goodness into a gravy boat. You could drizzle that heavenly syrup onto cardboard and you would swear that you’re eating the best meal you’ve ever had!

          • Quicksilver ballet

            Fine additions sir.

            It’s those subtle details like you mentioned, that make a world of difference.

            Is your man card gold, cause mine is only silver?

          • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

            I can’t say what I really mean cause the mods on this site suck a hind one lately but, isn’t Bogz the name of that f****t f*** h*** rapist in Shawshank Redemption that ends up eating through a straw for the rest of his life?

            6′ 2″ and 210 pounds of straight take a… GET OFF YOUR PHONE AND BUS TABLE 22 BEFORE YOU’RE RIDING DISHWASHER FOR THE REST OF THE WEEK… girl out of for once!

  • YFC Prez

    I had a feeling not signing Gagner long term was going to come back and bite Tambi right in the arse. Man I’m glad he’s gone! 4.75 over 5 years is what I was thinking would be fair for both parties.

    If it’s much more, time to take a close look at Grabovski.

  • Like Brownlee yesterday good read Willis.

    I agree with everything including the last paragraph “a fit for the team” this is where, I think the Oilers second biggest need is.

    I could care a less if Gagner got 5.5, in fact I don’t think it’s all that bad.

    It’s the “fit” Willis talks about that has me concerned.

    That and Tambellini & Lowe are SOB’s for putting the team in this mess!