Sam Gagner: Where Will He Go?

NHL: Edmonton Oilers at Dallas Stars Feb 28, 2013; Dallas, TX, USA; Edmonton Oilers center Sam Gagner (89) passes the puck in between Dallas Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) and defenseman Jamie Oleksiak (43) during the third period at the American Airlines Center. The Oilers defeated the Stars 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

In my mind and in the mind of many fans of the Edmonton Oilers, it is not a question of if the Oilers will trade Sam Gagner, but when. In hindsight, it would have made a lot more sense for Craig Mactavish to trade the young centreman. In the lockout shortened season, however, Gagner was on pace for 60-70 points over a full season. It seemed as though he had turned the proverbial corner.

Around that corner, sadly, was the stick of Canucks forward Zack Kassian, who whacked Sam Gagner in the jaw, breaking it and putting Gagner on the shelf to start the season. After a positive camp, the pre-season injury was a blow to Gagner and slowed his momentum with the club. It was expected that once his jaw healed, that he would begin to approach similar numbers. Sadly, he didn’t seem to recover and struggled mightily with his defensive play.

A tell tale stat seen above was last season’s -29 rating for Gagner. While Nail Yakupov‘s sophomore struggle was half expected, Gagner seemed to regress. After his seventh season in Oilers silks, one would hope Gagner would see his game congeal and evolve. It hasn’t, and perhaps the player mix in Edmonton is behind his inconsistencies. Gagner has been through five head coaches, two GM’s and a new owner. He has seen the roster turn a few times, never developing alongside linemates that had any staying power.

Sam Gagner should be moved to a team that can shelter his defensive weaknesses. Sam Gagner can score, and in case we forgot, scored 8 points in one night against the lowly Chicago Blackhawks. On a team like the San Jose Sharks, Boston Bruins or Los Angeles Kings, it seems more likely that Gagner would have a greater degree of success. The systems in place for those teams are set deeper, meaning Gagner would walk into a setting where change and upheaval isn’t the order of the day.

There has been talk that Gagner could move to the wing for the Oilers. Regardless, he still remains an element of a bad mix in Edmonton. The raw talent is there for this team, it just needs some bodies that can shelter the learning process developing young players go through inevitably. Gagner is a veteran NHL player, however. While he isn’t a bust, he simply doesn’t fit on this team. The audition is over. It’s time for him to find a team where his skill set is of greater value. Here, it’s losing stock faster than Blackberry.

Sam Gagner, 4th round pick, Martin Gernat for Matt Irwin from the San Jose Sharks, plus a sixth round pick.

Tags: Edmonton Oilers Matt Irwin NHL Trade Sam Gagner

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