Would You Do It Again?


One of the big off-season moves that MacTavish made this year was moving out Sam Gagner in exchange for Teddy Purcell. After years of waiting for him to take the next step in his development it never came. The team felt it was time to move on, and maybe he did a little too. But here we are just a couple of months into the NHL season looking to exchange a scoring NHL winger for a depth Centerman when all they had to do was hold onto the one they had.


Gagner was 24, about to be 25 years old, and had just finished his 7th NHL season. In those 7 years he had never been able to top the point production he had in his rookie year. In fact, in his final year in Edmonton he had put up his lowest ever point total (37). The player wasnt trending in the right direction and the Oilers were probably feeling a little nervous about being on the hook for the deal he signed that was about to have its No Movement Clause kick in.

Before that deal was signed initially Sam Gagner was on pace to be the youngest ever UFA in NHL history at 25 years old. He was clearly going to play his 7th season and his August Birthday alongside the fact that Edmonton played him at 18 meant he was going to hit the open market. He was going to get a lot of money on the open market because that’s how these things work. The Oilers ponied up a 3 year deal worth 4.8M per season, but that’s what happens when you buy UFA years.

Also, before we lambaste the Oilers too much, Gagner had just come off of the Lockout shortened year with 38 point in 48 games which is 65 point pace in a full schedule. It had actually looked like Gagner was on the verge of becoming the player he was drafted to be. 

Then Kassian “accidentally” hit Gagner in the face with a stick and turned the bones that hold his jaw together into Jello.

Not being able to eat solids or work out and rushing back into the lineup as quickly as possible turned out (shockingly) to be the wrong move for Gagner. Wearing a shield around his jaw and staying out of the fray physically he was consigned to the perimeter early on and never really looked overly comfortable. It was a terrible year.



The NHL Entry Draft concluded on June 28th with Craig MacTavish landing the Center he wanted all along in Leon Draisaitl. This is a player that he had been very high on before the season ended and there were lofty expectations about what this young man could do given his man-size and talents. On June 29th the Oilers dealt Sam Gagner to Tampa Bay for Teddy Purcell. 

This is a move that was framed as a way to add skilled size, but was it not really a way to make room for newly drafted Leon Draisaitl? Teddy Purcell is 6’2″ but he isn’t crushing anyone out there, and while he’s playing OK, he is still just another winger on a team that has more than it can provide quality minutes to. Purcell is playing a shade less than 15 minutes a night and that’s with a pretty big Power Play push.

Purcell definitely wasn’t a Salary Dump from the Oilers’ perspective. They managed to save only 300k a season with Theodore over Samwise. Tampa saved the money when they retained a portion of the contract in the swap with Arizona. 

From my perspective the Oilers gambled on Leon Draisaitl having a Calder Trophy type season and moved out a Center despite the fact that they had no depth at that position. They took away what they perceived was a weak safety net and replaced it with nothing instead. 


Gagner and Purcell have similar point totals on the season in a similar amount of games played (9 points for Gagner, 10 for Purcell) so their offensive contributions at first glance are a wash. Here some things about Gagner’s season in Arizona that the numbers tell us:

-He is on pace for roughly 190 shots this year. That’s a similar pace to the lockout year.

-He is actually only shooting 3.7% on the year and he has a career average over 9%. There’s more offense bubbling under.

-He is a positive possession player at 50.1% CF

-He gets a big Offensive Zone push at 40.5% OZ Starts. That’s just a hair less than the 41.4% Purcell gets

-He plays about 4:30 more per game than Leon Draisaitl

Hindsight being what it is would you still make this deal again? The Organization is on the hunt for a 2C who can play with some skilled guys and contribute offensively. I think they already had that guy but got stars in their eyes when they drafted the big German.

  • Serious Gord

    Purcell was a bust when we got him and not much has changed in that regards . Why the Oilers bothered to take him in the first place boggles the mind . No wonder MacT. is reluctant to trade anyone with that gaffe .

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    I was one of the few who witnessed that 8 point night in person.

    But I have also witnessed Sam be outclassed in the west.

    To be a center in the west and contribute you need more than speed and skill.

    You need to be able to protect the puck and battle in the corners, without that you’re not gonna do much in this western conference.

    Fact is Sam Gagner was getting paid double what he should have been and it never panned out.

    Good riddance.

  • S cottV

    Gagner was about as bad as it gets with any sense about 2 way responsible play.

    Centreman have to be constantly aware and in the best place possible, as often as possible – whether on offence, defence or in transition.

    It was mind boggling just how much of the time Gagner failed to make correct reads and how often he was in the wrong places. The result – in the back of our net – time and time again.

    I mean Oilers would get scored on and you rewind the pvr and sure as hell – Gagner did something stupid.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    and my point was that, despite what Sam did in junior, his weaknesses defensively, speed wise and physically were exposed in the much faster and more physical NHL and he reached a certain level and that’s as far as he was able to get.

  • Derzie

    Are you joking? I can’t believe this is even a question. Seven years wasn’t enough for you to get a read on Gagner?

    It was amazing that anyone was willing to take that horrific contract off MacT’s hands. Taking Purcell’s lousy but shorter contract was just a necessary evil.

  • dougtheslug

    Tampa bay didn’t “trade” Purcell. They knew what he was worth. They dumped him and his salary and flipped Gagner for a third round pick. Which is exactly what the rest of the NHL thought of him. Worth about as much as the 60-90th ranked 18 year old in the world.

    Just like the Oilers over valuing Hemsky and hanging on to him long past his best before date. He was worth a third and a fifth to the rest of the NHL by the time the Oilers dealt him. In other words, next to nothing in the long range plans of NHL organizations that truly recognize player worth and are planning to win.

    The Oiler Brains really do have a vision, I believe. They truly want to build a Stanley Cup Winner. Unfortunately, they are trying to build the 1984 Stanley Cup Champions. They have absolutely no idea how to build a team to win in the 21st century.

  • Derzie

    The Mighty Oilers are now at 6 wins after playing 24 games for 16 pts. And yet there remains ZERO accountability within the organization. MacT is going down a very risky route here. Scrivens openly criticized the team process last night, mere days after David Perron did say something similar. This team has ZERO vital signs right now.

    I thank myself for seeing the light.

    GO HABS GO!!!!!

  • Spydyr

    The mistake was two fold IMO.First they traded one soft player for another soft player.The team despertly needs some balls.The second mistake was not getting a legit #2C over the summer.It was pretty obvious to just about anyone with a hockey IQ the team needed a #2C.

    The thing that really boggles my mind is “the Braintrust” appeared to have an 18 year old rookie penciled in as the teams #2C the day they drafted him.

  • dougtheslug

    And by the way, just who did MacT think was going to mentor his brilliant 18 year old into a Calder winning center?

    21 year old RNH? Boyd Gordon? Mark Arcobello?

    That line of thinking is grounds for dismissal right there.

  • Spydyr

    They did replace him. Arco is putting up similar offensive numbers, but is more physical and is paid 500 grand as opposed to 4.8 million for Gagner.

    Can’t wait for the blog on ‘should the Oilers have kept (Penner, Hemsky, or Gilbert)?’

    Time to let it go.

    • Oiler Fan 16

      I agree Sam needed to go, can you imagine the heat from fans if he was still here with our current record? I would have preferred keeping Horcoff for 3rd line duty despite the cost.

  • Peplinski's Thunderbird

    There was probably good reason to trade Gagner due to his unfulfilled potential, defensive lapses, contract situation etc. But doing so without any kind of contingency plan was just plain foolish. As bad as things are now, consider what your team will look like when RNH inevitably goes down with injury.

  • 24% body fat

    Players don’t magically develop on their own, so when you are running a team that seems utterly unable to draft anyone beyond high first round picks that make it, and even the high first round picks don’t really live up to expectations you have to assume that your player development is as crappy as your drafting.

  • 2004Z06

    Sam may have played center, but he was by no means a second line NHL center. Draisatl and Arcobello may not be producing offensively, but it is obviuos that they are not the defensive liability that Sam was. I agree a legitimate NHL center should have been brought in to replace Sam over the summer, but it was addition by subtraction. Sam would be better served on the wing.

  • Oiler Fan 16

    Gagner is working on the worst plus minus totals in the history of the league. His pursuit would be easier here, but his dedication will get him there wherever he plays. -81 and counting…

  • Oiler Fan 16

    He has never scored 20 goals in the NHL. He has never had 50pts in the NHL in a season. He was +5 one season, all the rest a minus player. He’s 25yrs old and is -81 in his NHL career. Find me a worse NHL player in the last 7 years. Nice kid, should be in Austria playing.

  • Shadi in Texas

    Trade ? Even new guy Nicholson says it’s about the process and not just a reactive plan . He goes on to say we have to get more consistent with our current team . Also claims we should not trade from a point of weakness with team going in wrong direction . Sounds like a typical person in Oiler management does he not? Does he not know we have been going in wrong direction going on 9 years now with status quo mentality ? You deal with what you got, or your always going to remain in basement . Doesn’t look like Nichols could be any better than rest by his comments in Journal today . Another stay the course man .

  • Oiler Fan 16

    Sure: Voracek over Gagner,Seguin over Hall,Ellis over MPS,Murray over Yak,because center and defence is more important than wingers,but then if you can’t get a player in the second round your still screwed,eg. Nash,Plante,Lander,Pitlick.

  • Noel May

    The biggest problem with the Oilers is they try to turn players into something they are not.

    They did it with Cogliano, Gagner, Stoll, Cleary among others.

    They overvalue their players.

    Petry for example may never be a top pairing defenceman; however, I believe he is a solid 3-4 guy and they are in high demand in the league and we are going to let him walk for nothing.

    Cogliano is a great utility centre who could have fit nicely on this oilers team but we wanted to turn him into a top tier offensive juggernaut.

    To build a team everyone must play a role.

    I look at Detroit as a perfect organization in how they draft and mould players to fit a certain need or role. While we try and turn everyone into something they aren’t. Yakupov should be focusing on getting shots/hitting the net, not just defensive responsibility

    • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

      This. Felt it for a while and you’ve summed it up succinctly.

      I will add that when they were a small market team before ’04 lockout they made more of the players they had to play. Now in salary cap world where Oilers can spend to the cap with the best of them they’ve adopted similar philosophies that plagued the likes of the Rangers pre ’04 lockout. Constantly looking for answers elsewhere and forcing square pegs through circle holes.

    • Anton CP

      So true, I am in complete agreement. This group of managements and coaches have very little idea about how to use each player correctly. It has been like that for all these years. Schultz sbould be used more on PP instead logging on so many minutes. Krug of Bruins, Vatenen of Ducks, and Green of Caps are all used more for special team purpose. Why can’t Oilers do the same with Schultz like others? Yak is also a offensive player that can truly showing his potential by giving more on special team, but now the Oilers are trying to turn him into a scrappy checking line winger. This team will keep on sucking if they can never learn how to assign each players right tasks.

  • SimmerDownBoys

    The only question that matters is if the team would have more wins with Gags over Teddy Bear. I don’t think so. This is the key question that Oil admin doesn’t seem to know how to ask or answer.

  • Shadi in Texas

    The article is comparing him to the wrong player. He was ultimately replaced by Arco. It was only a bonus we received an NHL player in return in Purcell.

    Arco has similar point production as Gagner without all the brain cramping defensive coverage. He kills penalties and wins face-offs and is millions cheaper per year.

    He reminds me of Dany Cleary who plays up and down the line up, kills penalties and fills in on the PP and consistently contributes around 40 points a year.

    Not suggesting that Arco is the next coming of Getzlaf but when compared to Gagner, in my mind it’s no contest.

  • Gagner got shafted last season, Kassian broke his jaws and no team mates came over beat the crap out of Kass (they got a whole season to do that but didn’t).

    Gagner is -4 on Coyotes while Purcell is -13 among the worst plus/minus players in NHL including Petry, Leon and Perron. That’s 4 players on the team among the worst 12 in NHL.

    It’s the coaching and the system.

    Katz doesn’t care, new Rink is coming and he develop new business ventures downtown. More high draft picks coming, fans are going to the game.

  • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

    Sam was a good solder when here, I was sad to see him go, I was glad he was no longer here. It was fun to watch him tie #99 for points in one game. no matter what happens we are in the bottom of the league until the players get us out of it. It’s obvious the management can not do it.