Play it again, Sam?

Robin Brownlee
10 months ago
To be honest, I hadn’t spent even one second thinking about what a third tour of duty with the Edmonton Oilers for Sam Gagner might look like until our own Woz tweeted this morning that he’d like to see it happen.
I can’t say I hate the idea, but in all honesty that’s because I’ve long admired Gagner for the man he is as much as the player he’s been. I like him. That doesn’t make bringing him back one more time as a 33-year-old coming off surgery on both hips a good idea. I don’t know if it makes any sense at all.
What I do know is that Oilers’ GM Ken Holland is looking for some bargain basement help up front because he’s got holes to fill and not a lot of cap space with which to do it. Likewise, what Gagner said in April after the surgery limited his season with the Winnipeg Jets to 48 games is that he wants to play in 2023-24.
That only matters if Gagner, who has 1,015 regular season NHL games on his resume, 542 in Edmonton, can fill a need — maybe as a 13th forward — with Holland needing a value contract or two to make his salary cap numbers work. What the Oilers don’t need is a breathless stroll down memory lane for old time’s sake.


Photo: Robin Brownlee
“Yeah, that’s the intent,” Gagner said of getting the surgery with an eye to playing next season. “I mean, I actually want to keep playing and I understand that it’s going to take a lot of work to get back to where I was, but I think that being pain-free and having more mobility in my hips will be really helpful for me.”
Taken sixth overall by the Oilers in the 2007 Entry Draft, Gagner played his first seven seasons with the Oilers. He made stops in Arizona, Philadelphia, Columbus, and Vancouver before returning to the Oilers via trade with the Canucks for parts of 2018-19 and 2019-20. The Oilers dealt Gagner to Detroit and he later signed with Winnipeg as a free agent in September 2022.
Simply put, it’s been a long time since Gagner’s draft day, his eight-point game with the Oilers in February 2012, and the day he made a fan for life with my son Sam, a toddler at the time, when he gave him an autographed puck after practice. Sam is taller than Gagner and the old man now. Can Gagner still play?
“I still have a lot of game left,” Gagner told Winnipeg scribe Ken Wiebe. “When you look at it, I’ve been around a long time, but I’m only 33 years old and I still feel like I can contribute. That’s the intent. Get this done and hopefully be ready for training camp next year and continue my career.”


We still have the puck Gagner signed in my home office right near where Sam keeps his gaming laptop and does his homework. It’s in a cabinet with a lot of keepsakes from decades that I’ve spent as a sportswriter, some dating back 40 years. A lot of good memories tucked away in there. Can Gagner be more than that at this point in his career? 

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