On Saturday, Sam Gagner got word while in Providence, Rhode Island that he’d be leaving the Toronto Marlies road trip and headed back to the city it began for him in the NHL. He was traded to the Edmonton Oilers and they wanted him to make it to the arena fast enough to join the Oilers for their final game of a three-game road swing, this particular contest against the New York Islanders.
The matchup resulted in another loss for the Oilers, and despite playoff hopes looking bleak, there’s still a way this trade for Gagner looks like a win for the Oilers. In fact, there are at least four ways.
Gagner Gets a Fresh Start
In so many cases, the Edmonton Oilers are notorious for giving up on players too quickly. Lack of success in Edmonton has led the organization in the past to simply ship someone out and far too often, the player moved heads over the another NHL franchise and does extremely well. One look around the NHL and you can see evidence the Oilers have been burned taking this approach. Names like Devan Dubnyk, Jeff Petry, Jordan Eberle, and Justin Schultz are just a few examples.
Trading for Gagner and bringing him back has the potential to make the Oilers a team that can revitalize an NHL career. Such a move won’t erase years of mistakes but it could be a sign Edmonton can see value when another team doesn’t.
The Vancouver Canucks had all but given up on Gagner as a player. He was moved up and down in the lineup, sent to the Toronto Marlies of the AHL (where he was posting strong numbers) and the team just sent him to Edmonton for a player in Ryan Spooner who wasn’t moving the needle at all offensively. The Canucks simply wanted to move Gagner’s contract and were willing to take another bad contract back to do so.
The last time the Oilers pulled off a move like this was with Patrick Maroon when they acquired him from Anaheim and that move turned out extremely well.
Help the Second-Unit Power Play
One of the bright spots for the Oilers this season has been their power play. It’s striking at a much better pace than last season and is top-ten in the NHL at 22.1%. The deal is that most of that production has come from the first unit, specifically Connor McDavid and Leon Drasaitl.
Draisaitl has 13 power play goals and is fourth in the NHL in that respect. It sure would be nice if the second unit could kick in a little and Gagner has the ability to help.
During his time with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Gagner was a power play ace. Of his 18 goals and 50 points that season, eight goals and 10 assists came when the team was one man up. He was sheltered as a five-on-five player but a go-to guy on the power play. Edmonton could use a player with that specific set of skills.
Put the Eberle Trade to Bed
Part of the problem in Edmonton — at least when it comes to media and fans — is that players are often valued by how they become part of the team, not what they actually offer. For example, when Jordan Eberle was traded for Ryan Strome, Strome was rarely looked at as being of value as a third-line center who could kill penalties. He was viewed as a less-than asset versus what was sent to the Islanders. When Strome was traded for Ryan Spooner, Spooner never stood a chance.
Gagner is a face people know. He’s a guy with a proven history of producing points for the Oilers and if he has any kind of success, fans and media will look at the trade that sent Eberle out and calm down a little. Most Oilers fans like having Gagner back and that Eberle trade pill becomes a little bit easier to swallow because of it.
Gagner Wants to Be Here
If you’ve seen Gagner’s social media over the past 24 hours, he’s elated to be back with the Oilers. And, as the season rolls along and the Oilers struggle, there will be a ton of speculation that players don’t want to be here moving forward.
I am so excited to be back with the @EdmontonOilers. I have so many great memories from my first time here and can’t wait to create more. The community and fan base has always been great to my family and it feels like we are coming home. #LetsGoOilers https://t.co/D0Sdq5Sl3c
— Sam Gagner (@89SGagner) February 17, 2019
As this season winds down and the team faces the optics of missing the postseason again, the Oilers could use a few guys that want to be part of the solution and not part of the exodus into next season.