Gagner for Kulikov: Who Says ‘No’?


Sam Gagner has been a fixture on the rumour mill for years for good reason, and plays for a team that desperately needs help on the back end, but the Edmonton Oilers are going to have trouble getting fair value for him.

Dmitri Kulikov has been a fixture on the rumour mill for years for good reason, and plays for a team that desperately needs help up front, but the Florida Panthers are going to have trouble getting fair value for him.

I’m just speculating, but might there be a deal to be made there?


The story on Gagner is well-known in Edmonton. The sixth overall pick in the 2007 Draft is at an all-time low in value thanks to a disastrous season in which he went minus-29 and was outplayed by minor-leaguer Mark Arcobello. Despite this, he’s a gifted offensive player and despite a reputation as a defensive problem he hasn’t been nearly as exposed in previous seasons with the Oilers.

Gagner’s been a fairly decent second-line centre for a poor Edmonton club, and could certainly play the kind of role Derrick Brassard played for the Rangers en route to the Stanley Cup Final – that of the No. 3 pivot who centres a somewhat sheltered scoring line.

In the right situation, Gagner could be an awfully useful player, but it increasingly seems like Edmonton isn’t the right situation. Gagner’s size is a sore point on a team that lacks it, and on a team that lacks pure two-way players but has a number of creative scorers his skillset seems somewhat redundant.

The primary difficulty for the Oilers is that while they need help everywhere they really need help on defence, and most teams aren’t going to trade a top-four defenceman for a player who just had the season Gagner did.


Dmitry Kulikov had a rough season in Flordida. The 14th overall pick in the 2009 Draft had his trade value damaged in a year in which his offensive production fell, he posted an ugly minus-26 rating, and was made a healthy scratch by the Panthers’ coaching staff. Despite this, he’s a gifted two-way defenceman and it’s hard to have a decent plus/minus when the goalie behind you has a 0.891 even-strength(!) save percentage (and keep in mind, there’s little evidence defencemen have a decisive influence on save percentage and significant evidence they don’t).

Kulikov’s been a pretty decent top-three defenceman for a poor Florida club, and would certainly be a regular even on a much stronger team – it’s hard to see him slotting any lower than No. 5 even on a very deep depth chart.

In the right situation, Kulikov could be an awfully useful player, but it increasingly seems like Florida isn’t the right situation. Not only is there significant evidence that the Panthers are skeptical of Kulikov’s overall value, but he’s a restricted free agent who can threaten to leave for the KHL if they aren’t willing to pay him like they believe in him.

That makes it difficult to trade Kulikov for the offensive help that Florida desperately needs (leading scorer Nick Bjugstad had 38 points). Most teams aren’t going to trade for a maybe top-four defenceman who just had the season Kulikov did and is looking to be paid like a top-four defenceman.

Deal or No Deal?

Craig MacTavish9

I think the Oilers would need to be interested in Kulikov. He checks off a lot of boxes, providing the team with decent size (6’1”, 204 pounds) and adding a left-side puck-moving defenceman who at age 23 has plenty of upside and a track record of decent NHL results. As long as he was open to signing a multi-year deal at less than ridiculous dollars (say three years by $3.5 million), I don’t see why they wouldn’t make that deal. In their shoes, I wouldn’t be averse to adding a sweetener if it got the trade done.

Florida’s perspective is a little more difficult. I think they would need to be interested in Gagner, given the current anemic state of their offence and the fact that their top two centres have a combined 141 games of NHL experience and that there’s basically nothing after them. Gagner’s also only 24 years old and isn’t a bad fit for the age of Florida’s developing core, while simultaneously giving them a boost in the here-and-now. Further, the Panthers face a difficult negotiation with Kulikov and are likely not going to have an easy time attracting free agent centres.

With that said: I personally see Kulikov as a better player than Gagner, and I wonder if the Panthers aren’t hoping to aim a little higher in terms of help up the middle, perhaps as part of the return on a trade involving the No. 1 pick. It’s not a terrible deal, but it isn’t one I’d make in their shoes.


  • Done. I’ve been saying for a while that I don’t trade Gagner unless it’s for another player of a similarly tarnished value due to a poor season. In other words, trade our Gagner for someone else’s Gagner in a double reset scenario. If you could do that AND get a defenceman, I’m all for it.

    Incidentally, wasn’t Stauffer hinting the Oilers were going to add a young defenceman who had some historically good results but was coming off a poor season? Sounds a lot like Kulikov, no?

    • Problem is you’re now down a 2C. And no, throwing in your shiny new draft pick into that spot isn’t going to get it done unless the tank is on right out of the gate.

      I think the Gagner situation is a harder nut to crack than alot of people think.

      • I agree it leaves a hole. But I think a 2C role can be filled in free agency more effectively than the holes at D.

        I think 5 million times 4 will get you what you need at the second line centre position. I’m not as sure about D. Plus, there are two or three holes at D, and one major hole in the top six.

        Besides, I think they will sign an experienced centre even if they don’t deal Gagner. I believe they see Gagner as a maybe when they want more of a sure thing.

        Still the point still stands that this deal in isolation does not fix the Oilers. It will take several other moves to push them towards respectable.

      • Dockstaff

        No we’re not. Nuge is a #2C with potential to be a number one. We have been without a #1C since pretty much Doug Weight. Gagner likes to play in the centre but clearly isn’t an NHL calibre C.

        I would move Gags to the wing or trade him. Use Yak or Gags to get something like a 2 line C, or keep Gagner and use Yak to get a D. As of now the Oil are wooing Nikitin. One of Gags or Yak will likely complete that trade.

        • Sam Gagner is a second line NHL centre. Deal with it. Problem is he’s been playing on a team with too many rookies, no support vets, AHL level D and third world goaltending for almost as long as he’s been with the Oilers.

          I’d lay good money down he gets +50 points next year – in Edmonton or elsewhere. As a center. It’s a good bet.

          •Only top end first line C’s are above 80 points. If you have a winger that can crack 70 points you have an elite winger.
          •If you have a winger who scores 60 points thats an average first line winger
          •A player who scores 30+ goals is top end production for his position and high 20s is average first line production.
          •Typical 2nd line winger is only scoring about 37 points (remember this takes into account injuries)
          •A good 2nd line winger is getting 45ish points
          •A good 2nd line centre scores just over 50 points
          •If running a 1a/1b C system I would aim to get 120 points out of the pair (that is the same output as the 70 points from a 1C and 50 points from a 2C)

  • PutzStew

    Kulikov turned down 6 x $5 million per season in Florida as the team’s #3D.

    What do you pay your #1D Jeff Petry if you have to pay a very similar D in Kulikov 6 x $5 million plus?

    • Who’s to say Petry’s in the long term plans? My guess is if the trade went down Petry gets shipped.

      I honestly think they value Klefbom, Marincin, Nurse more then they value Petry.

      I could be wrong, they way MacTavish talks about next years line up sure makes you wonder if they run all three of those players.

      • That’s ridiculous. Full stop. Marincin is the only one of those 3 that is ready for full time Nhl duty. Also, Petry is right handed, those three guys are lefthanded. They aren’t comparable, it’s apples and oranges. Defense men play on their off side only for short stretches when injuries happen and when they have retarded gm’s. Petry and Schultz are the only right side dmen we have. Name one right handed prospect we currently have in the system besides Fedun who doesn’t have a contract. I guarantee that Petry doesn’t get traded unless there is another right hand dman coming back in the deal

      • “I could be wrong, they way MacTavish talks about next years line up sure makes you wonder if they run all three of those players.”

        That would be the worst thing they could do, throw 3 kids to the wolves on a roster that finished 28th in the regular season. Not to mention that playing defence would amplify any of their mistakes, particularly when they won’t have anyone to help them out. Is a mistake by Darnell Nurse going to be covered up by Justin Schultz? Lol

      • Quicksilver ballet

        I like that idea. While they’re playing a whole lotta games that don’t matter these next two seasons. Might as well let those 3 kids get their minutes in.

        MacTavish did cleary state a one point. If we have to go young, we’ll go young.

        As an added bonus, no doubt we have a legitimate shot at NcDavid.

      • Zarny

        Klefbom, Marincin and Nurse have 61 NHL games combined.

        If the Oilers ever ice all 3 on the left side they will get slaughtered. The first 21 games last year will look like puppy dogs and rainbows by comparison.

        • I don’t disagree with that; and I’m not suggesting they do that.

          However, MacTavish on more than a couple of occasions has hinted at all three being with the big club, not saying it’s right.

          If the Oilers and MacTavish are more concerned with the overall development at the NHL level and not so concerned with standings is it a terrible of an idea the Oiler struggle one more year if you’re MacTavish?

          I’m an advocate of sending each one of them back to further develop and maybe MacTavish does do that, but has that really been the Oilers MO over the years?

          The Oilers are famous for the sink or swim development program.

          • The Last Big Bear

            Not sure where you read that Mac has hinted tgose three could be with the big club next year.

            He has however stated that he is not going to rush either one of his young prospect defenceman. Nikitan is a freat pickup. Not a #1 guy by any means but he should push everyone down the depth chart one slot. Nurse will be in the Soo for at least one more year.

          • Zarny

            I agree sink or swim has been the Oilers’ development program and an abysmal failure for every player not named Taylor Hall.

            However, I disagree that MacT has hinted at all three being with the big club. In fact, he’s hinted at the opposite by saying on numerous occasions that they won’t rush their defensive prospects.

            Marincin was drafted 4 full seasons ago. He should be on the opening day roster as a 2nd or 3rd pairing D this year. As long as he doesn’t have to play against guys like Getzlaf, Toews and Kopitar every shift he should be fine.

            Klefbom should start the year in OKC and Nurse should go back to Jr.

          • Not to be confused with argumentative or confrontational, but here are some of the sources that MacTavish feel’s ok with going with youth might be an option.


            The “if we go with youth, we go with youth” quote


            Petry and the overall defense plan

            All three reputable articles contain the possibility of going with youth, not saying it will happen and MacTavish could be playing counter trey but one can also make the assumption he may actually do it.

            If they sign N.N you could also make the argument Perty is finished as an Oiler, possible for a package for that top pairing defensemen.

            100% agreed that both Klefbom & Nurse need to develop in there respective leagues.

          • Sorensenator

            MacT hopes to add 4 or 5 players with 2 or 3 of them being defensemen. He has already acquired the rights to Nikita Nikitan. The only one who will start next year is Marincin. To throw all three young guys in there would be a huge mistake, unless the Oilers purposely want to tank next year.

          • Zarny

            Fair enough. I was referencing the first quote from your first reference:

            MacT: “We’re not going to compromise our young prospects on defence,” he said of forcing the likes of Darnell Nurse, Oscar Klefbom, Martin Marincin, etc. into the line-up until they are ready. “We’d rather they played in the American Hockey League or junior.”

            I think you read a bit too much into the line “If we have to go young, we go young,”

            Because the immediate next line asks MacT about acquiring a high-end defensmen without giving up one of the core players and MacT’s response is:

            “I think we can. There are lots of assets that we have.”

            With acquiring a window to negotiate with Nikitin and the various rumors about Phaneuf and acquiring other D I don’t see it as MacT hinting all 3 will be with the Oilers next year. That’s a last ditch plan if all else fails.

            And if that ends up being the case God help the Oilers because they will get destroyed.

          • I would like to think that the management team has a better plan then tanking on purpose by using mostly rookies.

            This is (If they sign Nikitan) the reason I also feel Petry’s days are numbered in Edmonton, If they can package Petry for a top pairing defensemen, I’m good with that.

            I have always agreed the Oilers should be developing better, will never disagree with that and maybe I’ve read too much into what MacTavish has talked about regarding the rookies.

            The Oilers have talked a good game during the off season’s only to come up well below what I would consider reasonable expectations.

            I honestly won’t get too low or to excited until I see the starting lineup.

  • BlazingSaitls

    I don’t know which is more concerning. Is it Gagner’s complete lack of response to his defensive duties or the utter failure of managment, coaches and veteran teamates to get through to this player for the last eight seasons. Is there another team in the whole league who would have failed to cut bait on this kid after this much time?

    Gagner might as well be wearing a sign on his back…’trade me’. IMO he is the poster boy for cozy entitlement.

    • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

      The early years is when a team reinforces D zone play, this is when the team holds all the cards…..

      Once a player reaches their mid to late 20s the player holds all the cards.

      The window to teach Gagner defensive responsibility has closed.

      See also: Hall, Yak, RNH………….


    • Lofty

      Without trying to minimize Gagner’s accountability, he has been through 5 coaches, 2 GMs, 2 captains, and an entire roster of ‘veterans’. It would be incredibly difficult for any young player to find stability in his game under those circumstances. Not to mention he came to the team as an 18 year old (i.e. didn’t get the benefit of good AHL coaching). To your point, I think the organization has failed Gagner more than he has failed them. He remains the second highest scorer from his draft year (P.Kane) despite the turmoil. That deserves a bit of credit all things considered.

  • The Last Big Bear

    So your basis for this trade is:

    1) Florida completely souring on one of their most promising players.
    2) Florida being wrong about that player.
    3) Florida over-rating Sam Gagner to the point where his $5m contract looks like a contract that they want to have.
    4) Every other team in the league also under-dating Kulikov.
    5) No other team offering an asset of value when Florida starts shopping Kulikov.

    I don’t think any one of those things is likely, much less the combination of all five of them that would have to coincide for this deal to go down.

    So who would say ‘no’?

    Well, Florida would say no, because this would be a horrible deal for them. Probably half a dozen other teams in the NHL would say no, because they would be willing to offer a better return than an overpaid, undersized, offence-only player who doesn’t really provide that much offence but costs five million bucks. And last but not least, there is the very real possibility the Kulikov himself says no, and decides that while beach life in Florida was nice, for comparable money he’d rather win in Jaroslavl than lose in Edmonton.

    • Zarny

      You mean like:

      1) Jay Bouwmeester

      2) Jay Bouwmeester

      3) Gagner has topped 40 pts 6 of 7 years (including prorated lockout) of his career despite being injured and would have been 1st or 2nd in Florida’s team scoring 4 of 7 years…before ever hitting his prime.

      4) Other team’s under-rating Kulikov has nothing to do with a Kulikov-Gagner trade.

      5) Gagner is an asset of value. Get a clue. 40-50 pt players don’t grow on trees. That’s why Buf gave Ville Leino a big contract for 1 season over 40 pts let alone 6 before ever hitting his prime.

      • The Last Big Bear

        1) That’s an entertaining story you’re completely fabricating, but it didn’t happen. Florida “soured” on their Canadian Olympic, All-Star, All-Rookie, team-leading player? They were so down on him that he not only led the team in TOI, but he led the entire NHL in ice time? By “souring”, do you mean “considered him their most important on-ice contributor in all situations”?

        2) Florida knew exactly what they had in Bouwmeester, but he was a UFA, who turned them down to take one of the biggest defenceman contracts in NHL history at that time to play for a playoff team in his home province.

        3) Oh, we’re still waiting for Gagner to ‘hit his prime’, are we? A player who’s highest points total came 7 years ago? A player who has made no material progress since he joined the NHL? Yes, he would be one of the higher point-getters in Flordia, but at the expense of one of the existing offensive drivers on the team.

        4) If other teams think Kulikov is a promising 24 year old NHL-calibre defenceman with loads of offensive upside, they will also make offers.

        5) Lets look at what $5m-ish should buy for an NHL centreman…. Lets see, Jason Spezza’s real salary next season is $4m, and he’s asked for a trade to an American team where he won’t get called out every time the team loses. Mike Richards out produces Gagner, is about a million times better defensively, Olympic gold medal, multiple Stanley cups, captained a team to the finals, under 30, etc. Ryan Kesler makes $5m and he’s on the block too.

        Sam Gagner can’t even carry the jock strap of any one of those guys, all of whom are on the market at about the same money.

        Those are valuable assets. In a capped league, a $5m contract for Sam Gagner is not a valuable asset. It is a liability. It is the kind of contract which people buy out, rather than give up their most valuable assets for.

          • The Last Big Bear

            Well, I never said Bouwmeester made a good choice when hitched his wagon to the Flames.

            But they had been to the playoffs 5 years running, had division and conference championships during that time, had a Vezina-winning goalie, and with the addition of Bouwmeester had probably the strongest defence (on paper) in the NHL.

            “Aaaaaaaaaand it’s gone.

            I’m sorry, Calgary, you’ll have to move along. This desk is for playoff teams only.”


  • The Last Big Bear

    You can’t trade Sam for a center because no team will be interested in downgrading. You need to trade Sam in a package to a rebuilding team that doesn’t want to pay top dollar for a top pairing guy. Campbell or Ehrhoff seem to be good targets. It would take a top prospect, a high pick, and probably eating half of Sam’s salary to do it, but it would be worth it. Fixing 2c is going to have to be done through free agency or trading one of our wingers. I’m not a fan of the latter. Kulikov doesn’t fix any of the problems that the Oilers are facing right now. Marincin is just as good and already has a contract. This would be adding another ‘middle of the road defense man’ that Mact said he wasn’t interested in targeting

  • v4ance

    There’s talk ( Staples Journal ) of Oilers dealing for J. Boychuk ( right hand defenceman )of the Bruins . What might be the cost and length of deal to have him come here and waive his limited no trade clause ?

  • nuge2drai

    Oiler Domination To Follow

    If Reinhert is another Nuge- we should draft him – without hesitation.

    Hall Nuge Eberle

    Perron Reinhert Yakupov

    Dynamic, Offensive top 6.

    Pouliot Stempniak Kulemin

    Hendricks Gordan Moss

    Big, tough, reliable, defensive bottom 6.

    Bottom six signings fall into the 2.5-3.5 per year range

    Trade Gagner for a useful defenseman under 26. Arco can play top 6 while Reinhert develops.

  • utarded

    I shudder a little every time someone mentions trading Marincin Klefbom or Nurse. I’d do everything in my power to get Ekblad at the draft. Suck for a couple years while these guys develops properly. We would have the most terrifying D- core this league has ever seen. Leave them off the table.

    Trade Fedun, gags and #3 for Kulicov and #1

    • Lofty

      You mean ‘Mr. My first name is my last name too’?

      Great skater with a big frame. Right hand shot. Had a rough year last year and got passed by guys like Ryan Murray and played 3 pairing.

      Guessing MacT will have to throw at least $4.75 at him to come to the Oilers. Thats scary for a guy thats trending down but hell, its something. I sure hope the compensation to the Jackets is conditional.

        • nuge2drai

          Oiler Domination To Follow

          If you look at Smids career – theres better than a 50-50 chance he scores zero goals this season.

          Nikitin is much better than Smid.

          Its not musical chairs when you add prospects and picks for a useless player and than replace him with a useful player.

          • The Last Big Bear

            We didn’t get any picks in the Smid trade, that was the problem with it. And Horak is gone. We better hope Brossoit turns better than Roy.

            BTW I like the Nikitin move. At least, he’s an NHL player. Get him signed!

      • Zarny

        Yes, great skater and 6’3″ 217 lbs.

        He shoots left not right.

        He won’t sign for anything remotely close to $4.75M. More like $2.75M or less.

        He had 32 pts in 54 games in 2011-12 but has struggled the last 2 years. It’s the right semblance of risk for a team that isn’t going to attract UFA’s like Markov.

        FYI…32 pts is almost half of what Smid has amassed in his entire career (71).

        • Lofty

          If MacT is the GM that signs him I think its more than $4. I think it would be wise to offer more cash and smaller term to try and get him. 2 years?

          The guys a middle aged big body Dman, I think he gets more. Time will tell.

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    We need more actual NHL defensemen, get Nikitin signed!

    EDIT: five games of playoff experience to boot, that’s more than 80% of the rest of the team combined…

  • O.C.

    Nikitin sounds like a capable 2nd pairing guy to play with Schultz. I’d still like to get Markov signed (give him his $18M over 3 years, maybe front load the contract?) and Greene as a depth signing. Then rotate Greene and Ference game-to-game to keep them fresh. I think that makes our D legit.

    Markov – Petry
    Nikitin – Schultz
    Ference – Marincin

  • O.C.

    It’s finally started , and now we have a name to ponder in Nikitin. Anyone know what the rights cost us ? Nice it’s in an area of great need . Now to see if he will sign here .

    • camdog

      At TSN they didn’t say it was a trade. Just stated in the article that we have a window to sign him. Might be some compensation if we do get him signed to a contract.

      • Lofty

        Hockey buzz article by Cordell has most info on the subject for now with 2 quotes from MacKenzie . Apparantly there is no compensation unless we sign him before June25 . Expected to be a late round pick as compensation if we sign him . Nothing up front to report , makes me wonder if Oilers have another deal perhaps pending with Colombus ?

    • camdog

      At TSN they didn’t say it was a trade. Just stated in the article that we have a window to sign him. Might be some compensation if we do get him signed to a contract.

  • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

    On HCentral@noon yesterday, they had George Richards (Miami Herald), discussing various items, including Kulikov. He said Florida is going to sign him. (he didn’t think they would sign him, he stated it as if they ARE going to sign him).

  • The Last Big Bear

    Two thoughts

    1) Kulikov just passed 300 games played at the NHL level. Lowetide often talks about most NHL defensemen needing 300 games before they “get it”. This might be a great time to buy Kulikov. Worth the gamble if you are the Oilers.

    2) Florida its pretty deep down the middle, but very weak on the right side. They would most likely look to slot Gagner in next to Barkov and Huberdeau.

  • Wow, something bloggers actually wrote about could come true. We could see Nikkitin in Oilers silks. However, before he was a big help for us, now he’s being billed as a depth defender. So fickle.

    However it would be nice to see a good stay at home guy playing with Schultz.

    This bumps Klefbomb back down to the minors, but it also either bumps Ferrance to the top line, or to the third line. They are going to need to go get a right hand shot defenceman. And though my original comments got shredded by the ON, I still see either Johnny Boychuck, or Dion Phaneuf coming to Edmonton to fill that slot. Unless of course they magically manage to get Ekblad.

    It seems like Mac T has something in the works. I am assuming it’s either a trade for Phanuef, a trade for Boychuck, or a trade for the 1st overall pick to land Ekblad.

    Of the three options, I like the trade for Boychuck the most. It lets the Oilers keep their draft spot and grab a centre. And gives the team another vet on the right side to help mentor Klefbomb, Marincin, and Nurse as they come up.

    So then:

    Marincin Petry

    Nikitin Schultz

    Ferrence Boychuck?

    This is very much a by committee defence, but is loads better than last year.

  • The Last Big Bear

    There’s a lot to say about youth growing together . Example :Colorado . I like it better than separating them on AHL squad personally .If they are ready to make the transition , and it’s our best option , then they are ready and better served on parent club .

    How many of other ones breaking into their clubs has it destroyed or hurt to be honest . None , including our own . That’s management and coaches call anyways , not ours . You can have your opinion but i’d side with club route on this subject . Most youth on bad teams to begin with and do not have the luxury of holding them back as long as other more prominent teams . Having said that I see little evidence in last 10 years thatshows it destroyed any one of them .

  • Rdubb

    I think that if MacT made the trade with FLA it would be a steal of a deal for EDM and would make much better from the get go as they’d get a very good skilled d-man who seems to have lost interest in FLA and would loose a player who not only seems to be disinterested in EDM but CANNOT play a single second away from the puck, heck, EDM would be better off with Arco playing in the middle, defensively that is, and who knows, the kid EDM drafts just may make the team out of camp, or MacT may pull a rabbit out of his hat and either sign a 2nd line C or trade for one….
    One day Sam will shake head and stop listening to his family and others close to him and realize that he IS NOT a C on any NHL team, as his size hurts, and most importantly, his play away from the puck is worse than most rookies coming out of junior. If you can’t be a C on the worst team (ave over past 8yrs) than you cannot make it on any team…Sam could be a good winger if he’d only realize it!!!
    & since he won’t change his mind about playing the wing, he’s got to move somewhere else, and it must be before July 1 of this yr…