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Sam Three Times

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Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Robin Brownlee
6 months ago
History tells us that relationships in the hockey business, as in other walks of life, matter. As the old saying goes, who you know often matters as much as what you know. That simple fact can nudge situations one way or another.
It’s no surprise, then, fan favorite Sam Gagner, one of the most universally liked players ever to grace the home dressing room in this city, will be in town for training camp trying to secure his third stint with the Edmonton Oilers on a PTO. Gagner is at the top of the “good guy” pile and the hope is he can still play some.
The everybody-likes-Sam factor aside, Gagner was the first client of Oilers CEO Jeff Jackson when he was in the player rep business at the Wasserman Agency. Sam’s dad, Dave Gagner, worked with Jackson as executive vice-president at Wasserman.
Of course, family ties wouldn’t matter if the Oilers didn’t think Gagner, Edmonton’s first-round selection in the 2007 Entry Draft and a veteran of 1,015 NHL games, had a chance to be a useful player in a role down the line-up for coach Jay Woodcroft. They do, so that’s an easy bet to make on a PTO. Here he is.

SAM SAYS

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Gagner, 34, has played 542 of those 1,015 games with the Oilers over two stints, 2007-08 to 2013-14 and 2018-18 to 2019-20 with stops with six other teams along the way. That said, another look-see isn’t about taking a nostalgic stroll down memory lane. If Gagner, coming off hip surgery, can help, he’ll stick. If not . . . 
“I’m excited about it,” Gagner said Monday in an exclusive interview with the Real Life Podcast on Oilersnation. “It’s been a long summer just trying to get healthy and feeling good again. “Ultimately, when I was trying to figure out what to do, it just feels right to try and give it another shot with the Oilers. Obviously, where the team’s at, you guys all know how much I love being in Edmonton and being an Oiler. Why not give it another shot?”
With Gagner being a UFA but with health being a question after the surgery, coming here on a PTO was in the works for a while.
“I kind of kept tabs with the Oilers throughout the summer,” Gagner said. “Obviously with Jeff Jackson being there now, you know he was my agent for a long time, I just kind of followed up conversations with him. I wasn’t really sure where I was going to be at hips-wise as the summer went along.
“But my hips feel great. I’m ahead of schedule. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be ready to come to camp, to come on a PTO or anything of that nature. I’m still pushing to try to get to another level. It’s been kind of a long summer in terms of rehab and getting back on the ice . . .
“Once I knew there was an opportunity for me to be ready, I just felt like it was the right thing, so I talked to Jacks (Jackson) about it. I’m just looking forward to coming to camp and helping out any way I can.”

THE BOTTOM LINE

Gagner’s possible return is a feel-good story, but that’s not the bottom line. With the PTO, if Gagner shows that he can play and fill a need, likely as a fourth-line centre, then he’ll get a contract. If he can’t, he won’t. It’ll be see you later until he calls it a career and returns down the road to take a job in hockey ops. 

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