Photo Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Sam the Strong

There are few stories that have made me feel warm and fuzzy like the story of Sam Gagner.

He was a favorite of mine a decade ago when he was drafted by Edmonton, and I was disappointed to have ever seen him leave.

What goes around comes around, and Samwise returned “home” to Edmonton last year.

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And this year, he’s been an integral part of the Edmonton Oilers. Despite only playing in 11 games this season, he’s posted 1-3—4 and been one of the club staunchest players.

Hear me out.

At even-strength, Gagner has been the Oilers best driver of play posting a 56.05 CF% — nearly five per cent higher than the next closest Oiler, Alex Chiasson (52.77).

While his actual even-strength goal rate has faltered at 41.67 GF%, his expected goals for per centage of 64.58 is nine per cent higher than the next Oiler.

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His actual goal rate can likely be blamed on an awful 94.5 PDO, about six points below what the average. His on-ice SH% (6.41) and on-ice save percentage (88.14) will surely jump as his TOI per game of just over 12 minutes increases.

Right now, he’s stepping in and filling the role of the team’s second-line centre as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins recovers from a hand injury.

Looking aw WOWY’s (with, without) the line of James Neal – Gagner – Alex Chiasson are fitting in well together. There’s the effect of small sample size, of course, but I think Gagner will continue to fill in well in that role.

My hope is that he finds himself a more regular spot in the lineup moving forward.

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He is, after all, a $3.1-million cap hit against the club, according to Puckpedia, and is an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. There’s lots of season left, but I don’t see any reason why Edmonton shouldn’t resign him for a sub-$1-million deal to be a fourth-liner, or extra forward.

On Twitter: @zjlaing

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