FINDING THE NUMBER

Making a case for Sam Gagner at $5M a year isn’t hard to do, but for the Oilers it’s more difficult to find a way to include him in their future at that number. Well beyond $5M? Almost impossible.

GAGNER HAS REAL VALUE TO EDMONTON

The case for Gagner making 5 large has been made ably at ON in recent days:

  • Robin Brownlee: "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."
  • Jonathan Willis: "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."

I’d also draw your attention to Tyler Dellow’s summary of the situation (here) and his conclusion "deferring this issue by letting the arbitrator deal with it doesn’t seem likely to me to produce a better result. Make a longer term bet on him now seems like a reasonably smart bet to make to me."

BRIDGING THE GAP

The Oilers have five ‘impact’ players who could reasonably be regarded as having superior futures to Gagner: they are Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov, Jordan Eberle and Justin Schultz. Hall and Eberle are signed long term for $6M per year, and that’s probably the organizational ‘outer marker’ for contracts.

Assuming that the club signs Nuge and J Scultz long term for $5M+ (or near) in the next 12 months, and have Gagner come in around $5M as well, the Oilers will be looking at about $27-29M for their five best players when the Yakupov contract comes up for review. This assumes the Nuge is willing to sign for less than $6M, and that my friends is a large assumption.

The cap will go up next year, and if it hits $70M plus then the pressures will be eased; however, signing Sam Gagner long term with a no trade mean Craig MacTavish could box himself in if:

  • he signs Gagner to a multi-year deal with a no trade clause for the free agent years
  • the cap goes up, but does not sky rocket
  • Gagner performs below his established level

These are legit concerns, and things MacT must measure as he readies to sign Sam Gagner.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

I think the Oilers call in forensics on this, pore over the numbers, and deliver a long term contract shy of $5.25M per year. Sam Gagner has been consistent and is entering his prime. Buying an uptick in performance is a good bet.

We wait.

  • Crackenbury

    What happens to Gagner’s value if he wins his 1 year arbitration? There is no way the Oilers let him play out the season here and/or Gagner basically forces the Oilers to sign Grabovski to replace him. Gagner then ends up on the third line with diminished minutes and fewer points going into UFA status. I would think Gagner’s best opportunity to sign long term for decent dollars is right now with the Oilers. The risk of injury or a poor season stat-wise based on a reduced role should ensure he signs before his hearing. If he doesn’t and the Oilers sign Grabovski shortly thereafter, Gagner should shop for a new agent.

  • Lowetide

    Gagner is a valuable part of the team, a stand up guy, has helped in recruiting other players and the GM praised him recently.

    This is ONLY about contract number and term. He’s one of the boys.

    • Romulus' Apotheosis

      Fans often conflate these issues. It’s a shame really.

      Besides the whole narrative about players = bad character because they make too much money ignores the fact that players don’t operate in a free market.

      Hockey is one of the more regulated markets in existence. All the tools (ELC, RFA, Cap, etc.) are designed to limit the earning power of the players on the free market.

      Fans often direct their frustration at players for “getting paid” when they hit UFA status and yet conveniently ignore the years those same players put in under market conditions radically unfavorable to them. Even under UFA status there are tools that artificially limit the earning power of players.

      It is understandable that some form of resentment holds against those making enormous amounts of money, but that general affect is completely without context to evaluate the market in which value is assigned.

      • Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

        I get your point and its accurate……but I think their is large group of fans whose frustration is not resentment at the large amounts of money that athletes make….but rather when they are overpaid relative to the market like Horcoff was….or more accurately, when they are paid big numbers based on one good years performance. When they go into the crapper in following years, there is no way of recouping the money or to trade the contract. However when the reverse is true, and a player is signed to what we call a value contract, some of these players pout and demand new deals or try to force trades etc. I think it’s this inequity that causes the angst.

        Fans would like things to be reasonable and fair, not just cheap. They prefer it when a guy liked PJ Subban is not payed in advance for his potential….but have little or nothing against his making a windfall when he wins the Norris.

        I think that the angst over Gagner comes from a similar source. 1) the fear that he is young and still yet unproven to large degree….which means their is the potential for a boat anchor contract….(which is amplified in this market by the contracts of Horcoff, Hemsky and Smyth)…..AND…..2)..the concern that Gagner is not a clutch performer, poor defence, can’t win face offs, easily pushed around, etc…makes us feel like he might be the invisible man when it comes to playoff hockey….(this too is amplified in our market by the fact that we have a small team)

        So….if you’re going base on age, offensive stats, and desperation ( we are weak at the center position) then you want him signed at 5.25. If on the other hand your one of those who puts more weight on all round game, physicality of the playoffs, face offs, etc….you see him as a problem…and not part of the cup winning solution, but given the circumstances..you’d take him at 4.25 to 4.5…where at least he’s still tradable….

  • Mark-LW

    @Spydyr

    Too many similar, younger, and better players in our system? Whoa. When did we get all these awesome centers? Last time I checked our centers basically consisted of a 19 year old RNH, a 23 year old Gagner, a 29 year old Gordon, and a 22 year old Lander. Gonna go out on a limb and say that Gordon and Lander aren’t better offensively than Sam sooo… where they at?

  • Spydyr

    The number that fits for me is another GM’S phone number. He is not the right fit here. Too many similar younger and better players filling his role. He is a second line player looking for first line money. Between him and Hemsky a forecasted amount over 10 million Per. Ouch.

          • Spydyr

            I looked up one team on cap geek. Just for fun I took the champs. This is what some of their top players will make next season:

            Bergeron, Patrice $5,000,000
            Marchand, Brad $4,500,000
            Eriksson, Loui $4,250,000
            Savard, Marc $4,027,143

            So he is asking first line money.

          • StHenriOilBomb

            many lunacies of this post have already been highlighted, but I am curious:

            Why did you chose the Eastern Conference champs instead of the “Champs”, as you put it? Is it because the champs have 4 forwards and 2 dmen making over 5mil, some on back-diving contracts?

            It’s nice picking cherries, eh?

          • Spydyr

            Yes. I made a mistake. I forgot to type eastern trying to juggle many things. It is nice you are perfect and never make a mistake. Some of us do.It also must be nice to be so powerful you can say another person’s argument are invalid because they forgot to type the word eastern.

            It must be hard being so perfect.

          • Craig1981

            I must admitt after I read you admitted you were wrong about the 1rst line thing I did feel bad about my post. My bad. My mistake
            But I do ask you this if you traded him, how will replace him with someone that costs less? We have very little talent in our prospects at center

          • Spydyr

            IMO it is not about costing less. Just putting the cost against the cap somewhere else.

            Sam is a good offensive player he just does not fit into the Oilers right now .There are just too many younger, better offensive players then him here at the moment.

            I agree the team needs way more depth at center. They have Nuge as the undisputed number one. After that there is really no long term depth.

            Hopefully Mac-T starts loading up centers like he just did with the defense. Right now IMO the team needs a two way , gritty , tough to play against a complete player for number two center.he can bring less offense then Sam.The top two line wingers will pick up the offense.The team just needs to get harder to play against and some grit in the top two lines.

          • Spydyr

            Hells no. Between Sam, Hemsky, Shultz the elder and perhaps a defensive prospect a good GM should be able to pick up a second line center such as I suggested.

            I’m not saying trade all of them for said center, just that they have players that can be moved for him.

            Some teams may be up against the cap later this summer.Perhaps a draft pick and a prospect or two may fetch him

          • a lg dubl dubl

            Do you think LA would trade Richards or Carter, or Philly with Giroux or San Jose with Thorton or Pavelski for any of those players the Oilers have that are willing to trade?

            2nd line centers that are 6’0+ and 200lbls+ is a lot harder to obtain via trade without any of the kids involved and right now that IMO is asinine

            Im not tryin to shoot you down or start a interweb war with ya its just my opinion 🙂

          • Spydyr

            The players you named are some of the top centers in the NHL. Set your sights a bit lower.

            So your saying Sam is good enough to be second line center here but not one other team in the NHL will trade their second line center straight up for him. Kind of makes my argument doesn’t it?

          • a lg dubl dubl

            Nay nay I do think hes good enough to be a second line center on 29 other teams, all Im saying is if your going to trade Sam your going to have to get someone on par with him or better to replace him on the 2nd line center position otherwise the team is just spinning its tires (Islanders, Panthers, Bluejackets)

            You wanna win, go big or go home right

            If Im trading Gagner to say for example the Flyers for Giroux Id offer sam and my 1st rounder and that’s all. To get a 3rd/4th line guy for sam drops us down and leaves a bigger hole on the team

          • Craig1981

            OMG, those contracts have as much merit as the fact that Chris Bosh makes 17.54 million next year.

            You have one guy that hasn’t played in the NHL for several years, and failed to mention another guy you listed actually cost 6.5million to sign this summer.

          • Spydyr

            As stated the contracts are for next season.
            The guy you have listed actually cost 6.5 million to sign this summer. Yes, and when Sam leads his team to the Cup final as a first line player he will be worth that too.

          • Craig1981

            I didn’t say you were wrong, I was saying what you said had no merit.

            A contract Bergeron signed in 2010 has ZERO merit on what Gagner is worth in 2013.

          • Spydyr

            Once again Sam is not a second line center never mind a first line center. He is a second line winger playing center , poorly.

            What I said is he is a second line PLAYER looking for first line money.

          • Mark-LW

            Gagner was 114th in points per 60 minutes of ice time this season for forwards, 30 games played minimum.

            That literally puts him in second line point production territory if you consider all second line players to be in the range 91-181 (three forwards per team occupying the 1-90 range)

          • Mark-LW

            I can do that also:

            Datsyuk – $6.7
            Perry – $8.625
            Getzlaf – $8.25
            Kane – $6.3
            Toews – $6.3
            Sastny – $6.6
            Kopitar – $6.8

            I could have gone on longer but I got tired of clicking through.

            Notice something there?

            All those >6 million contracts are from a different CBA that allowed artificially lowering the cap number and THEY ARE STILL much higher than what Gagner is asking. If you want to see true first line pay under this CBA, look no further than Perry and Getzlaf. Neither are Crosby/Stamkos/Malkin like talents but check out that cap number. $5.5 will seem very small for a consistent scoring second line centre in three years.

  • Mark-LW

    Oilers would have traded him if they could. The return was not there for a 5m +/yr.

    So they will sign him and hope he has more of an upside coming into his prime.

  • Mark-LW

    Seems expensive. In 5 years in the NHL, Gagner has not produced more points than in his rookie season. Now he is 2nd in the depth chart behind RNH. How much offensive production can be reasonably expected from Gagner get 2nd line ice time at EV and on the PP?

    My question would be if Gagner signs a deal for $5M/season, is this a contract that is tradeable? Is it one in which you would have to eat salary to be traded?

    I personally have a difficult time seeing that as being the case. I would assume people in Edmonton assess Gagner at a higher value than other GMs in the league.

    • oldhippy

      First off, Gagner’s numbers for the 2013 season extrapolate out to 65 points. His first year was 49 points. That puts him at 17th place among ALL centers this past season. His average totals for a full season works out to 51 points. This includes an 18 year old season.

      He turns 24 at the start of this season. Centers tend to have their best years, starting around that age, or older.

      Look at Henrik Sedin’s numbers. Starting at age 20 until 24 his season totals were 29, 36, 39, and 42. The next season was the lock out and he came back after that, as a 25 year old and scored 75 points. I will further argue that Henrik had better line mates and spent more time on the first power play unit.

      To give up on Gagner at this point is sheer lunacy. Even if he isn’t our 2C going forward, he could still be a winger on the second line. At 5X$5M he would be a highly tradeable player. I doubt after 6 season of better than 40 points, his contract would look like Horcoff’s. Hor coff had one good season and was on his way to another great season when he had the bad knee injury. That was when he was given the contract. He had no long track record that would match what Gagner has done, consistently.

  • TwoSkidoos

    I bet most teams wouldn’t pay much for Gagner on a 1 yr deal knowing he’s going to go UFA unless they intend upon signing him.

    His value in the upcoming season is going to be relatively lower than it could be with teams knowing Edmonton’s in between a rock and somewhat hard place.