Sam Gagner’s Edmonton homecoming has been both nostalgic and productive. Since he was acquired by the Edmonton Oilers on Feb. 16, Gagner has two goals and added a shootout marker in five games. Oilers fans have not been this excited for a former player to rejoin the club since Ryan Smyth in 2011.
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During his CBC After Hours interview with Scott Oake and Louie DeBrusk on Saturday, Gagner said he wants to spend the rest of his NHL career with the Oilers, which was refreshing to hear. Here are three other former Oilers that many fans would love to see return to Edmonton in the future.
Patrick Maroon (2016-18)
Patrick Maroon was an easy guy to cheer for. Although he wasn’t the most skilled player on the roster, Maroon’s blue-collar approach to the game and exuberant goal celebrations quickly won him tons of fans in Oil Country. He would have fit well on those gritty Oilers teams in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
“The Big Rig” always stood up for teammates and had surprisingly soft hands around the net for a big man. Maroon had 49 goals and 86 points in 154 games with the Oilers and scored a career-high 27 goals in 2016-17 when Edmonton returned to the playoffs for the first time in 11 years. He also scored the first goal at Rogers Place in a 7-4 victory over the rival Calgary Flames on Oct. 12, 2016.
After he was dealt to the New Jersey Devils on Feb. 26, 2018, Maroon told Oilers TV that he hoped to one day be back with the organization.
“Edmonton gave me an opportunity to succeed,” said Maroon. “I can’t speak highly enough about what they have done for me, my fiance, and my son the past two and a half years. This has probably been the best time of my hockey career. On July 1, I want to circle back here and see if I can be an Edmonton Oiler again.”
Maroon went on to sign a one-year contract with his hometown St. Louis Blues this past summer, and no one could blame him for it. Not only did this give him the opportunity to play for his childhood team, but it also allowed him to live in the same city as his son, Anthony, who was also loved by Oilers fans.
The 30-year-old forward is slated to become a free agent again this summer, and he would be worth bringing back on a cheap, one-year deal.
Jordan Eberle (2010-17)
Jordan Eberle was one of the most popular Oilers players of the last decade. He was a hero in Edmonton before playing a single NHL game thanks to consecutive strong performances at the 2009 and 2010 IIHF World Junior Championships. Eberle made an immediate impact upon his arrival, scoring one of the greatest first goals to start an NHL career.
The Regina, Saskatchewan native displayed excellent offensive instincts, outstanding puck skills and an accurate wrist shot. Eberle also had underrated passing ability, which made him a dual offensive threat. He wasn’t great on the defensive side of the puck, but started to show some signs of improvement later in his tenure with the Oilers.
Eberle ranks ninth in goals (165), 13th in assists (217), 12th in points (382) and tied for eighth in power-play goals (41) in franchise history. Between 2010-11 and 2016-17, Eberle was 24th in the NHL in goals, and reached the 20-goal mark five times and the 30-goal mark once.
His time in Edmonton ended on Jun. 22, 2017 when he was traded to the New York Islanders for Ryan Strome in an effort to create some salary cap space. Although the Oilers could no longer afford him at $6 million per season due to multiple poor signings, Eberle would make sense for the club at $4 million.
Eberle, who turns 29 in May, is slated to become a free agent this summer, and he would address the team’s need for more scoring on the wings. His critics will say he made little impact during the 2017 Playoff run. Even so, he helped them get to the playoffs, which is something the Oilers desperately need to do again next season.
You can count on Eberle for 20 or more goals every season, and there isn’t a natural winger on the current roster who can boast the same level of production.
Taylor Hall (2010-16)
Before Connor McDavid came to town in 2015, Taylor Hall was Edmonton’s biggest star for five seasons. When the Oilers drafted him first overall in 2010, he was supposed to be the franchise player to right the ship in Edmonton. However, three different general managers failed to surround him with enough talent to ever have a sniff at the playoffs. Still, his electrifying skill was among the biggest reasons for fans to keep watching the team.
The Calgary native possessed incredible skating ability, deft hands, great vision and a dangerous shot. Hall had the ability to take over game with his rare combination of skill, speed and power. He suffered several injuries with the Oilers, but he was easily their best player when healthy.
Hall led the Oilers in scoring three times and was among the top-10 scorers in the NHL twice. He recorded one 80-point season, two 60-point seasons, four 50-point seasons and four 20-goal seasons during his time in Edmonton. The trade that sent Hall to the Devils for Adam Larsson on June 29, 2016 is one of the most infamous moves in franchise history. Larsson is a big, strong defensive-minded defender, but he will never replace what Hall brought to the table.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman was a guest on the 2 Mutts Podcast on Feb. 17 and told hosts Ryan Petrovic and Joshua Marshall that the Oilers should look into bringing back Hall.
“[If I were the GM] I am finding out what Taylor Hall’s future is,” said Friedman. “If I get the sense that he is going to free agency, I am telling the organization that my plan is to bring Taylor Hall back. I am saving my bullets for a year to find out if Taylor Hall would consider returning to Edmonton and playing with Connor McDavid. That’s what I would do. That could be a total pipe dream, but that’s what I do.”
There are two big questions that would first need to be answered. Would Hall want to come back? And do the Oilers have the money to make it work? Hall was very upset when the Oilers traded him three years ago, and it’s unclear if he still holds a grudge against the organization.
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If there is any hope of repairing that relationship, then the Oilers should do everything in their power to sign him on July 1, 2020. The salary cap is expected increase next season and could rise again in 2020-21 when Hall’s next deal will begin, but the cost of the player alone could put the Oilers out of contention for his services. With a 93-point Hart Trophy winning season on his resume, Hall will likely want $10 million or more on a long-term deal.
No one is going to make more than McDavid at $12.5 million in Edmonton, but the Oilers also probably don’t want to pay anyone more than Leon Draisaitl at $8.5 million either. Hall’s next contract will surely be the most lucrative of his career, so it’s hard to imagine him taking a reduced salary to come back to Edmonton. It’s a long-shot at best, but the new general manager would become an instant hero in the market if he were somehow able to pull it off.