Oilers center Sam Gagner has been a lightning rod for criticism over the last season. He is viewed as a major trade piece for the Oilers over the summer, and fans are hoping that the beleaguered middle man can help fetch the copper and blue a veteran NHL player.
Will he? Probably not. Should he? Yes. Ales Hemsky only scored Craig Mactavish two later round draft picks, and he is one of the best danglers in the biz. Hemsky will thrive yet, and the trade will be viewed as a major bargain for the Senators. The Senators still need to sign him, or he may test UFA waters, the former the more likely of those two scenarios. With Gagner, a similar script should play out.
Questions both fans and management need to ask themselves are ones like whether or not the intangibles Gagner brings are worth giving away. As I pointed in my last blog about him, he is capable of explosive offensive skill, as his record night against Chicago a couple of years ago can prove. Boyd Gordon won’t be lighting the lamp like that anytime soon. But can Gagner find the proper type of game in Edmonton?
Many have speculated that Gagner should be moved to the wing. That very well may be the plan. Unless for some strange reason Aaron Ekblad falls into the Oilers lap, they are almost certain to draft a center, one who will likely see time on the squad this season, and on the roster for the one following. Mark Arcobello was also signed to a one-way deal, which reduces Gagner’s role on the team. Gordon makes 3 million a year, and I can’t see the team’s 4th line center making that much money. At wing, Gagner’s drawbacks on the dot and defencies defending the middle will be out of the picture.
The reality is that in order for the Oilers to find the kind of success they crave they will need to make some sacrifices. Gagner will be one of them. They will probably retain salary as part of any deal, and he will likely blossom elsewhere as his old linemate Andrew Cogliano has in Anaheim. The Oilers may keep him, but his retention would indicate a series of savvy acquisitions have been made to “shelter” him.
Gagner is a likable player, full of heart and plagued by injury. He will be an important cog in a teams’ wheel this season. Bet on that team not being the one moving to new digs downtown in 2016.
OIL ON WHYTE OUTLOOK: Chicago, Montreal, New York Islanders express interest. Craig Mactavish splits the bill and sends him away for a prospect and pick.