It was an eventful day in Oiler land.
Sam Gagner was traded by Oilers’ GM Craig MacTavish this afternoon to the Tampa Bay Lightning. He got in return power forward Teddy Purcell. It certainly wasn’t a salary dump, as Purcell comes to the Oilers with one year more term as Gagner and only $300,000 less in salary. However, Purcell is 6’3 and 203 lbs. Additionally, he produces points at around the same rate as Gagner.
Overall, this is an excellent trade for the Oilers. By trading Gagner for Purcell, the Oilers fill a positional need while ridding themselves of a player who, while very talented, was simply a poor fit for the roster. Purcell is big and the team needed a big, scoring forward like him.
It was more than a little shocking to see the player then get flipped along with R.J. Crombeen to the newly rechristened Arizona Coyotes. The trade cost the Coyotes only a sixth round pick. This is a straight up salary dump so clearly Lighting GM Steve Yzerman is setting himself up for Free Agency. Yzerman will retain $1.6 million of his salary in the deal, so this looks even better on MacT. Remember, Sam’s NTC kicked in after July 1.
It is always risky trading a player as young as Gagner. But as the Edmonton Journal’s Bruce Mccurdy points out, he was a player on the ice far too frequently for goals against. In his piece on today’s trades he says:
…Over his 7 years in the league, Gagner’s -77 rating is the third worst plus/minus in the NHL. Obviously much of that is team-related: Gagner was never fortunate enough to play on even an average team during his time as an Oiler. It seems as though Craig MacTavish reached the point of “if he’s not part of the solution, then he’s part of the problem.”
Aye, there’s the rub. It is quite likely that Gagner will thrive in another city. In Glendale, he will no longer be under the scrutiny of the glass bowl that is hockey in Edmonton. There he can modify his game, increase his value and still test free agent waters before he’s 28 years old.
Undoubtedly, Sam Gagner will be fondly remembered by fans here in Edmonton. He had a ton of heart, loved the team and the city, and performed rather admirably for a guy who was starting his career in a rebuild. While his trade represents a small gamble for the Oilers, it is a move that benefits all three teams in ways they needed heading into the off season.
Now, it gets interesting. There are no guarantees that Leon Draisaitl makes the team out of camp. The Oilers will try to acquire a centre to replace Gagner, so watch for movement towards David Legwand, Olli Jokinen and such July 1. Later tonight we start profiling more targets for Canada Day so keep logging on!