Trading Sam Gagner to the Los Angeles Kings Would Likely be a Mistake

Everybody and their dog seems to want the Edmonton Oilers to move Sam Gagner for whatever the team can get and the sooner the better. That’s why comments by Hockey Night in Canada’s Elliotte Friedman suggesting the Los Angeles Kings had serious interest in Gagner have attracted significant attention in Edmonton.

Clifford & Nolan

Bob Stauffer of Oilers Now was asked on Wednesday’s show about the Gagner rumours. He said the return was “going to be a guy like a [Kyle] Clifford or a [Jordan] Nolan or a [Dwight] King,” and that “there’s going to be a financial component involved” in this scenario, hinting that the Oilers would be retaining salary in the deal.

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Let’s look at those players. Among Kings forwards with more than 20 games played, Clifford ranks 12th in even-strength ice-time per game and Nolan ranks 13th. Neither of them kills penalties. Basically, they’re both big, young fourth-liners who contribute almost nothing beyond a physical game. The Oilers have some experience grabbing fourth-liner off high-end teams – guys like Colin Fraser and Ben Eager. Those guys looked great in Chicago, and looked terrible in Edmonton.

Would Clifford or Nolan be an upgrade on, say, Jesse Joensuu? Absolutely. Are they going to play top-nine minutes? Probably not. Nolan couldn’t score in the AHL, and Clifford had 28 points in the OHL in his draft year. They’re fourth-line guys.

If Luke Gazdic and Jesse Joensuu and Teemu Hartikainen and Lennart Petrell and Ben Eager and all the rest of the big forwards the Oilers have run through their fourth line show anything, it’s that adding a big, physical guy to the bottom of the roster doesn’t do anything to fix the problems in the top-six. So trading a guy like Gagner, who has problems but is a proven NHL scorer, for a younger version of Ben Eager or a better version of Luke Gazdic is kind of a stupid thing to do.

Dwight King

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Dwight King is a better player, but he’s also a guy who had 17 points in 28 AHL games last year and had 33 in 79 AHL games two seasons ago. He has 23 points this season, playing primarily with Anze Kopitar and Jeff Carter. He’s a big (6’4”, 230 pounds), young (he turns 25 this summer) left wing that can play top-nine minutes and kill penalties and add a physical presence. If the Oilers are moving Gagner for a forward, that’s the guy who the Kings might be willing to move and who is in the same value-range.

Now, the problems. If Gagner goes, that means Edmonton is relying on a Mark Arcobello or Anton Lander to play centre on the second line. As a guy who likes both players, I’d enjoy watching that but as an NHL G.M. I wouldn’t be at all comfortable with it. Maybe Gagner needs to be replaced anyway, but moving him for King means that Edmonton now has a second-line centre slot to fill. Is it easier to add a guy like King in free agency, or a guy like Gagner? If the Oilers need a big guy who can be plugged in on the second line, they can sign a Nikolai Kulemin or David Moss in the summer. There simply aren’t second-line centres available, unless they can somehow talk Paul Stastny into moving to Edmonton. 

The second problem is salary. Sam Gagner has this season and two more with a $4.8 million cap hit. King has this season and one more at $750,000. So Edmonton would need to take another contract back, and probably need to eat half of Gagner’s contract. Yes, the salary cap is going up but this is also an Oilers team that needs to add significantly on defence and on the third line; spending $2.4 million for the next two seasons so that L.A. can have a cheap Gagner seems misguided.

I like King a lot, and he’s a nice fit for Edmonton. He’s just not a nice enough fit to justify dumping Gagner and retain half his salary in the process. Toss Jake Muzzin or Tyler Toffoli in, and there might be something to think about – but it’s not likely that the Kings are going to do that. 

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  • Truth

    Everyone does realize that Gagner has played on the worst performing team in the league for his entire career, right?

    The team is -258 in goal differential since he joined the team. Being a plus player on this team for that entire stretch would either a) be a miracle, or b) be a player that plays an extremely limited role.

  • Doctor Smashy

    The hate for Gagner is getting a little silly. We can all acknowledge that Gagner has had a rough year defensively but I have yet to read anything even close to convincing explaining why the Oilers are generally so bad this year…everyone. Sure our defense is weak but does that make Hall pass to no one in particular at the point? Does that make Eberle hang on to the puck forever without shooting? Does that make Yakupov inexplicably fall down while doing a routine pivot? Seriously people, PhD theses will be written on why the Oilers have been THIS bad this year. As for Gagner – the facts are these:

    From the 2007 entry draft there is exactly one player who has more points than the reviled Sam Gagner – it is Patrick Kane.

    There are exactly five players who have more points per game than Gagner from the 2007 draft (Hmmm, he was 6th overall pick….). They are:
    Patrick Kane – 0.964 pts/game
    Jamie Benn – 0.759 pts/game
    Logan Couture – 0.731 pts/game
    Max Pacioretty – 0.636 pts/game
    Jakub Voracek – 0.632 pts/game

    Sam Gagner is at 0.612 pts/game

    So Kane is the best, fine. Benn was a 5th round pick and Dallas picked 4 dudes ahead of him – so that makes every GM an idiot I suppose. Logan Couture has been on a GREAT team for his whole career – might have something to do with it, might not. Pacioretty is ahead of Gags on the strength of ONE good season – he’s a good player but has played far fewer games…we’ll see how his career looks in 10 years. Anyone who would rather have Voracek, well sure he’s bigger but I’m not sure he all that much better than Gagner – tough to say because I haven’t seen him play very much.

    Gagner has put up the same points per game practically ever year (higher last year and lower this year by about the same amount). You can call that a lack of improvement or you can call that consistency. Who cares. He is very good player on a very bad team with alot of problems. You DO NOT trade Sam Gagner for a third line plug.

  • Truth

    The biggest reason not to trade Gagner is to make sure we get a top 3 pick, we need to keep him and play him a lot in all situations and take all the face-offs in the defensive zone.
    Trade him in the summer to a team that needs to get to the cap floor.

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

    I hope that GM’s around the league are as split on the value of Gagner as
    Oilers fans are. That would mean that 15 teams wouldn’t be interested and 15 teams would value him in a way that returns a top six player or, if the oilers add in a prospect, a number 2 D Man.

    It’s going to be fascinating to see what happens!

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

    I think Gagner’s fate will be determined at the draft. If the Oilers get Ekblad they will hang on to Gagner for at least one more year. If the Oilers get a center at the draft they move Arco or a fee agent to #2 C role and play the rookie centre on third or fourth line. Gagner gets dealt as part of a package for a # 2 Dman.

    I say this because I firmly believe that Oilers management is focused on a longer time horizon than many here would like.

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

        Hey Big Slick….anything I’ve read says July 1st 2014.


        Feb. 9 – 25: Olympic Break

        Feb. 26: NHL season resumes

        Mar. 5: Trade Deadline, 3pm et

        Apr. 13: Last day of regular season

        Apr. 15: NHL Draft Lottery

        Apr. 16: Stanley Cup Playoffs begin

        June 27 – 28: 2014 NHL Draft in Philadelphia

        July 1: Free agent signing period begins

  • camdog

    The problems on this team are higher than Sam Gagner. When he had big, defensively reliable Penner on his wing he played a good game.

    Problem is he doesn’t work with small, defensively unreliable wingers. It’s been 8 years of the same team make up. Doesn’t seem to matter who the GM is, they still try the same things. That tells me the problem is higher than the GM, who would have thunk it?

  • Zarny

    If you are going to trade Gagner, wait until June and then trade him for the best d-man possible. Then draft best center possible for #2C spot. Oilers are winger rich, d-man poor, Center poor (#2 AND #4 if you trade Gagner, and goalie poor. Trading Gagner, at a discount because he has had a tough year, for a winger does not make sense unless you are getting a top 4 winger. That top 4 winger is not coming in a trade deadline deal unless you are trading with another non-playoff team.

  • Terrible, terrible, terrible trade…unless Gagner has checked out. Even then I’m sure he’d waive his no- trade and No Way should the Oilers retain any salary. I am sick and tired of the Oilers paying a player to play for another team! I’d rather gamble and showcase Gagner next year.

    *I’m talking about the Clifford for Gags and the Oilers retain salary rumour* If there’s more to the deal and there better be, I’ll update my opinion on it at that time

  • nuge2drai

    Oiler Domination To Follow

    Draft your future second line center- dump Gagners cap space and make a trade happen. He’s too small.

    King, Clifford and Muzzin


    Gagner @2.4 – 2 years.

  • Zarny

    Have any of you actually watched Gagner play? Or do you only judge a player by his box scores and how he compares to players from the same draft year (a weak year to boot)?

    A small one-dimensional forward who contributes nothing beyond his pedestrian point at a ~0.6 PPG rate. Watch him backcheck in his own zone and you can see what a joke of a player he is. You can say he’s bad because he’s part of a bad team, but as the current 2C and a veteran among most of the forwards, Gagner is more the cause than the effect of this team’s awfulness.

    If King is on the table, then I’d make the deal happen, even if it means retaining some salary. Better yet, trade Gagner to the Canucks so we can sabotage their chances of making the playoffs next year.

    • Doctor Smashy

      SO the thesis of your argument is that the Oilers are bad because Gagner is on the team. Ok, so have you checked to see what our record was before he returned at the end of October? We must have been doing great! Oh right, we were 3-10. Our record suggests we were better with him. I appreciate the fact that you are trying to fit in with this very fashionable ‘Gagner as the source of all of our problems’ thing but it is just getting very old. It is plain to see he has had some VERY bad games. Getzlaf had a very bad season. Ovechkin had a very bad season. Am I equating them with Gagner? No. I am comparing the scenarios of turning on a 1.0 PPG player because of one bad season and turning on a 0.6 PPG player because of one bad season. It is the same thing and it is stupid in both cases. Gagner is worth A LOT more more than Clifford. Period. He may not fit on our team because of all the other players we have that bring the same thing…sure. But let’s not drive this guy out of town because of this meme that is dominating the collective Oiler mind.

  • Spydyr

    I doubt that deals between teams don’t happen in isolation. If they do, fire the entire front office.

    If the Oilers are indeed serious about trading Gagner to LA, then it has to work for both sides. This season is a write-off, so putting Arco at 2C for the rest of the season is meaningless — except it gives him a serious NHL audition at top-6.

    If they trade Gagner, they have a plan for a 2C replacement and it’s not likely a “hope and pray that Arco steps up” kind of plan. So let’s assume that they have a plan to fill 2C with an actual 2C, either through trade or FA.

    With that assumption, the Oilers need:
    1) Defense
    2) Experience
    3) Size and “truculence”

    If trading Gagner to LA means that they take back King or Clifford (preferably King) and one of Regehr or Mitchell, that helps the oilers accomplish 3 of 3 on their goal list.

    King and Clifford are both bigger bodies who play physical brand of hockey.

    Regehr and Mitchell are both experienced and reliable D-men who can play a shutdown game (and PK time) and provide a veteran presence in a very young D-corps in Edmonton. Think of the contributions that Adrian Aucoin made to PHX when they signed him at 36. He spend 3 years playing solid hockey while tutoring OEL and Yandle.

    Chances of Sutter wanting to trade Regehr are low, but Lombardi might see it differently.

  • S cottV

    I think with the right complimentary players around him, Gagner can play at a high level in the league.

    The one place he really stuggles is as the low support forward in d zone coverage. This is partly due to physical size but also lacks in awareness for what is going on around him, defensively in his own zone. You would think this is something he could learn, but – it’s been quite a few years and he often looks like a raw rookie in this area.

    So – play him with a couple of bigger wingers, one of which being a guy who can play in the middle – as well, taking faceoffs in the d zone and operating as the low support defensive forward. Gretzky often had wingers who covered off the d zone for him.

    In general – if Gagner plays with 4 other guys who are particularly strong at forward zone play, he should do pretty well. Sutter would be a good coach for him, providing a sound structure and having Gagner provide some opportunistic scoring.

    Sutter could also take a round out of him, if he doesn’t dummy up with better two way play, as part of the process.

  • Doctor Smashy

    Perron. Hall and Ebs are the 3 players you do not want to trade. A Dwight King between Hall and Ebs or 2 line between Perron and ? would be dominant. RNH can bounce between 1st and 2nd line.

    Sam G, Ales H and Yak are all great trading pieces to acquire 2 power forwards and a solid D man. All new acquisitions should be 6’1 and 215 pounds +. You could also toss in N Shultz, Potter and Petry. Keep AF, MF, JS, AB, PL. Aquire 2 other good big D men. Larson could also be used as a 2nd or 3rd line wingers. He is another guy that is smart and clutch skater.

    Arco could be used as a trade or 4th line center. Perron and Arco have played with the most heart this year. Try Gazdic on the blue line or keep him as the enforcer with great skating skill.

    The future of the Oilers are Hall, Ebs, Perron, Gazdic, Gordon, Arco, Marcininn, J Shultz(Mabye), Belov, Ference and Joensuu(providing he gets more physical) and a few others. I think Gazdic is a diamond in the rough.