Sam Gagner isn't finished with the NHL just yet

Despite speculation this might be Sam Gagner's final NHL campaign, he has made it known that he would like to continue playing next season.
Edmonton Oilers v Tampa Bay Lightning
Edmonton Oilers v Tampa Bay Lightning / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

Sam Gagner proved to be a godsend for the Edmonton Oilers, ever since accepting a PTO during last summer after undergoing surgery on both hips. Following a successful three-game spell with the Bakersfield Condors to begin the 2023-24 season, he then signed a deal for the league minimum at the NHL level, which certainly helped with the organisation's tight salary cap situation.

Gagner went on to make an immediate impression to begin his third spell with the Oilers, scoring two goals against the Dallas Stars in his first game. And while this level of production was never going to last, overall he helped the Oilers thanks to the combination of his leadership, work ethic and experience.

Throughout it all, speculation grew that this would turn out to be a goodbye tour of sorts for the 34-year-old, now in his 17th season of NHL hockey. Not so fast though, despite not getting the opportunity (so far) to play for the Oilers during these playoffs.

Friedman confirms Gagner wants to return next season

As per Sportsnet's Elliotte Freidman, it turns out that Gagner would like to play once again in the NHL next season. Speaking during Wednesday's edition of the 32 Thoughts Podcast with Jeff Marek, around the 45:37 mark, Friedman said: "So I saw him today in the room and just asked him how he was doing? He came off the ice and had a big smile. He was working up a sweat and he told me he wants to play again. next year. He does not want to retire, he wants to play and he is determined to play."

It should be no surprise that it turns out one of the reason's the forward want to continue playing, is his passion for the game. Friedman said: "Ganger will be 35 in August and if you take a look at his game total, he's up over a 1,000 (games). Some guys when they get to a 1,000, they go 'Okay, I hit that number and I'm good'. No, he's not like that. He wants to play He said 'Look I still love it'. He played 28 games this year with the Oilers, he played 15 in Bakersfield and he said ' Look I still love hockey'."

Friedman also discussed Gagner's family, which is arguably the biggest reason the London Ontario native wants to continue playing. Friedman said: "He said his wife is still understanding if you want to keeping going, then you can keep going. He's got three kids eight, six and four, I believe two boys and a girl and they're starting to get old enough to a) play and b) have a better understanding of what their dad does."

The potential for (another) reunion with the Oilers?

Gagner wanted Friedman to put the word out there, we assume to give himself a head start for teams who might need someone next season. Even though you might wonder about the timing of wanting these comments mentioned, you surely have to include the Oilers themselves as one of those teams who could use him (again), if nothing else due to their ongoing financial challenges.

As per CapFriendly, consider that the Oilers have 10 unrestricted and two unrestricted pending free agents on their current roster. However, also as per CapFriendly, they have just $9,833,333 of projected cap space for the 2024-25 campaign, which is also the eight-lowest total of all 32 NHL teams.

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Certainly a reunion would make sense for the Oilers, but also you imagine for Gagner himself, who has spent the majority of his career in Edmonton. This is the organisation that selected him sixth overall in the 2007 draft, so there is a lot of history, respect and trust on both sides.

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