Many Oiler fans have a hate-hate relationship with management right now. As a matter of fact, I’d be willing to say that they’ve had this sort of relationship going on for the last, oh… say four years now.
This offseason is a little bit different, in that the Oilers haven’t done anything terribly awful – and they haven’t chased the big free agent dragon. (You can debate whether or not signing Steve MacIntyre was yea or nay, but it’s a $500K investment compared to a $12M per year offer to Ilya Kovalchuk…I’ll welcome MacIntyre back with open arms in that instance). As a matter of fact, a lot of overdue needs have been addressed. I’d say Steve Tambellini and Co. have had at least a “B” offseason this year.
Let’s talk a little bit about some moves that have been made, and then let’s talk about a real big piece of the Oilers future, Sam Gagner.
Recent summers in Edmonton has been marred by some wild attempt to land a high profile free agent that ends up resulting in the Oilers playing the bridesmaid, but never the bride. One need not remember the Dany Heatley fiasco in 2009 where Heatley refused a trade to Edmonton, or the Marian Hossa scenario in 2008 that saw Hossa become a member of the Detroit Red Wings, or the ill-fated blockbuster non-signing of Michael Nylander in 2007…it’s really been something.
So far this offseason, Edmonton has played their cards well enough. Highlights of this offseason include waving Ethan Moreau (and subsequently getting Columbus to take him), Patrick O’Sullivan was dealt to Phoenix for Jim Vandermeer, and Robert Nillson was bought out. Edmonton traded for tough minutes guy Colin Frasier from Chicago, signed UFA defenseman Kurtis Foster from Tampa Bay, and picked up some quality AHL talent along the way in players like former Toronto Marlies captain Ben Ondrus and forwards Alexandre Giroux and Brad Moran.
Needless to say, this offseason hasn’t been a disaster…so far as now. So with that lead…
Sam Gagner is a Group II free agent. What this means in simple terms is, that the Oilers need to sign Sam Gagner. Now.
If Sam Gagner receives an offer from another team, he has the right to sign that offer, and Oilers then have seven (7) Earth days to match it. Should the Oilers match the offer, then Sam Gagner will play for the Oilers for the offer that was received from the other team. Which could be a ton of bucks. So let’s not get to that point.
With a player like Sam Gagner, you don’t want it to get to this point. You want to make an offer to a player who is happy to be a part of your team, and is happy to sign for that money.
This team needs to sign RFA centre Sam Gagner, and they need to sign him sooner rather than later. You are going to now read why I believe Sam Gagner should be resigned.
The likely second line centre will be a whopping twenty-one years old when the season starts in October, yet he already has three NHL seasons under his belt. Since joining the Oilers organisation he has played 223 career games, yet by most accounts he’d still be considered a prospect due to his age. In 223 career games, Sam Gagner has tallied 131 total points (44G-87A) on some truly abysmal Oiler squads. With that being said, Sam Gagner is a player that by all accounts is going up in the rankings. He should get a three year deal with a cap hit of 2.5-ish for those three years. Lo-hi it from about 2.33-2.5-2.66.
That might even be a little conservative. The kid’s a gamer.
Don’t believe me that Gagner’s worth the loot? Let’s compare him with a player whose absence caused great strife within the lineup last year: Ales Hemsky. Take a look at this post compiled by Jonathan Willis last year. Gagner’s stats in years 1 and 2 are better than Ales Hemsky’s 1 and 2 (exception: plus/minus, but remember, Hemsky played on the ’06 squad as a freshman). Plus, Gagner did it a year younger than Hemsky. Gagner at 19 had compiled 72 career points versus Hemsky’s 64 points at age 20. Comparable? Sorta. Better? No doubt.
It’s a safe bet that if he plays injury free on a line with Hemsky or Penner this year, Gagner’s statistics could improve dramatically. We’re talking sixty points total next year. And for a guy who’ll still be 21 at that time, that ain’t nothing to snort at.