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Monday Mailbag – How likely is it that Sam Gagner turns his PTO into a contract?

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Photo credit:Tom Kostiuk
baggedmilk
6 months ago
Happy Monday, dearest Nation Citizens, and welcome to a fresh edition of the Mailbag to help get your week started and keep you up to date on all things Edmonton Oilers. This week, we’re looking at Sam Gagner’s PTO, whether the Oilers have enough depth scoring, the power play, and much more. If you’ve got a question you’d like to ask, email it to me at baggedmilk@oilersnation.com or hit me up on Twitter at @jsbmbaggedmilk and I’ll get to you as soon as we can.
Jan 18, 2020; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; e/ forward Sam Gagner (89) celebrates a first period goal against the Arizona Coyotes at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
1) Tristen asks – We all love the Sam Gagner returns story but what is the likelihood that he’ll be able to turn his PTO into a contract for next season? Where would he fit?
Jason Gregor:
All depends how he, Sutter, and Pederson look in camp. If he is willing to start in the AHL, then the odds he signs a contract increase significantly. Edmonton will only carry 12 forwards to start, but having AHL depth, who is NHL ready, will be vital. Remember, both last year Kostin and Janmark started the season in the AHL. I think there is a good chance he will sign a contract. If he had to start in the AHL, he’d be a great leader and presence for the young players in Bakersfield.
Robin Brownlee:
Unlikely. Only fit I see is at 4C ahead of Pederson.
Tyler Yaremchuk:
The tough part is that the Oilers are likely only going to be able to carry 12 forwards to start the season so Gagner will not only need to outplay Brandon Sutter, who’s also on a PTO, but he’ll need to play so well that the Oilers feel it’s worth putting Raphael Lavoie on waivers. I think the most likely outcome is that Gagner signs a one-year deal and goes down to Bakersfield to start the season.
Liam Horrobin:
If he wants to make the team then he needs to beat out Raphael Lavoie. It feels unlikely the Oilers would want to send Lavoie back to Bakersfield over Sam Gagner. With that said, I think Gagner would be a solid two-way contract forward, similar to what Devin Shore did last season. The Oilers will need the depth at some point and he can be a fit.
Baggedmilk:
I think Gagner will sign a contract but will start the year in the AHL just like Janmark and Kostin did last year. Once the Oilers start to accrue some cap space, I bet he’ll be the first call up. That’s my bet anyway. We’ll see how things go in training camp.
Dec 1, 2022; Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA; Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (97) and center Leon Draisaitl (29) look on prior to the game against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
2) Anna asks – McDavid and Draisaitl are going to get their points again this year, but do you think we’ll have enough depth scoring for the moments when the Dynamic Duo can’t do it all?
Jason Gregor:
Depth scoring wasn’t a major issue last year and considering Kane and Yamamoto combined for 26 goals (Kane only played 41 games, Yamo 58), I think Kane and Brown will score more than 26 combined this season. Foegele is good for 11-12 a year. McLeod is getting better. If Holloway plays 12 min/game he will score 10. I’d be willing to wager a lot that Evan Bouchard scores more than eight goals, so I don’t see depth scoring being a big issue.
Robin Brownlee:
Better defensive play and consistent goaltending is another option, no? That aside, I see enough depth here even with marginal drops on the top end.
Tyler Yaremchuk:
I think so. If Ryan McLeod can stay healthy that will be a big help and I think pieces like Warren Foegele and Dylan Holloway should provide a lot more offense than they did last season.
Liam Horrobin:
It feels unlike the Hyman, Kane, and Nugent-Hopkins all go quiet at the same time again, so I fully believe the depth is good enough. Additionally, adding Connor Brown to the group only makes them better. Ken Holland could get busy at the deadline too and add another piece.
Baggedmilk:
I actually think the Oilers are going to score more this year. Even though I don’t think Nuge will get to 100 points again, I do think there are a handful of guys that will have better seasons than they did last year. I think Kane, McLeod, Brown, Foegele, and Holloway will all produce more than they did in 2022-23.
May 10, 2023; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN;The Edmonton Oilers celebrate a goal scored by defensemen Evan Bouchard (2) during the first period against the Vegas Golden Knights in game four of the second round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
3) Marc asks – Do the Oilers need to adjust their power play to ensure it stays dominant this season? I just think other teams will be doing everything they can to adjust to what made Edmonton so effective last year.
Jason Gregor:
Marc, the Oilers PP% from 2020-2023 has been 29.5%, 27.6%, 26% and 32.4%. Teams haven’t been able to figure it out. They can game plan all they like, but Edmonton has one extra player on the ice, and they are the best in the NHL at using that advantage. I don’t see why McDavid and Draisaitl, who are the orchestrators of the PP, will suddenly be shut down. They might not be 32.4% again, but if they are around their four-year average of 29.1%, they will still be dominant, and I expect they will.
Robin Brownlee:
The Oilers have been very effective on the power play for four years now, and for different reasons. If there was an adjustment to change that, it would have been used by now.
Tyler Yaremchuk:
To be fair, I think other teams have been trying their hardest to stop the Oilers powerplay for a long time and nothing has worked. What makes them so dangerous is that they have multiple ways to score. It’s not like there’s just one play that provides 90% of their goals. The five-man unit that the Oilers put over the boards is just so naturally talented that it’s impossible to stop on a consistent basis.
Liam Horrobin:
I am sure the Oilers have some new plays for the power play this season. Even if they don’t, nobody has figured out how to stop Connor McDavid yet so I am sure he’ll find a way.
Baggedmilk:
I highly doubt it. The Oilers’ power play has been so good for the last handful of years that I doubt that anyone will be able to figure it out this season given that the personnel will be the exact same.
May 12, 2023; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Vegas Golden Knights right wing Mark Stone (61) celebrates after scoring a goal against Edmonton Oilers goaltender Stuart Skinner (74) during the second period of game five of the second round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
4) Blake asks – Who is the Oilers’ biggest rival right now? The easy answer would be the Flames but after last year’s playoff matchup, I can see the Edmonton vs. Vegas games being much more intense in 2023-24.
Jason Gregor:
Vegas ripped their heart out last year. It was the most painful loss for their core group. Those games this season will be intense, but overall I still believe it is Calgary. They have a 40+ year rivalry. It is still the top, but the Vegas games will carry a bit more fire this season which is great.
Robin Brownlee:
Intensity can be the product of styles of play rather than rivalry. There’s some of that with Edmonton and Vegas. Nobody likes Vegas. I’d still say Calgary, even with some of the key agitators like Matthew Tkachuk now elsewhere.
Tyler Yaremchuk:
I think the Oilers and Kings have a really good rivalry as well. That one might be the most intense at the moment considering the playoff history.
Liam Horrobin:
I would say the LA Kings. Back-to-back seasons of playing in the postseason against each other will build up some hatred.
Baggedmilk:
Gotta be the Kings or Golden Knights. That first round against the Kings was spicy and the Golden Knights basically broke all of our hearts in round two, so it has to be them.
Feb 23, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Edmonton Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft (right) talks to linesman Michel Cormier (76) and referee Graham Skilliter (24) against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the second period at PPG Paints Arena. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
5) Craig B. asks – The IIHF Champions Hockey League has a couple of rule tweaks they are trying around penalties.
  • Minor penalties dealt are the same as major: A team that caused a minor penalty will remain shorthanded even if the opposing team scores a goal.
  • Serving delayed penalties: A minor penalty will be served even if a goal is scored while a delayed penalty is pending.
  • Shorthander erases the current minor penalty: If a shorthanded team scores, the minor penalty against will end.
What are your thoughts on them? I would like to see them in action – preseason or AHL maybe.
Jason Gregor:
I like the first two. I wouldn’t incorporate the third one, but I don’t hate it either. Often the NHL tries things in the AHL first, so that would be the most realistic place to start. I suspect they will watch how it works in IIHF and then the player’s union would also have to be on board. Teams with bad power plays or lacking in star power would likely be opposed to it today, which is narrow-minded because in five years they might have drafted a great offensive talent. Edmonton would love it, as their PP is lethal.
Robin Brownlee:
I like all three. Imagine the Oilers’ power play percentage with the first rule in place.
Tyler Yaremchuk:
I love the second one where the penalty is still served if a goal is scored while the ref’s arm is up. It really doesn’t make a lot of sense why they take the penalty away in that scenario. Not a huge fan of a shorthanded goal erasing a penalty though. This is also a good chance for me to plug my favourite hypothetical rule change: no icing the puck when you’re shorthanded. The game would be way more exciting if teams actually had to play while shorthanded and couldn’t just shoot the puck down the ice.
Liam Horrobin:
I love all of them and am excited to see how they work in the IIHF. I wouldn’t be surprised if the NHL is just waiting to see how it looks before they implement some similar rules.
Baggedmilk:
I like the first two rules a lot, honestly. These would be simple adjustments that would certainly increase scoring, and I’m very much into that. The third rule is also kinda fun, especially given that the Oilers led the league in shorties last season so maybe I want all three of them.

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