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.
WAS IT TIME?
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.