There had been some speculation over the past few seasons if the Edmonton Oilers were going to hold onto center Sam Gagner, or trade him for assets. His play this past season was superb, and his presence on the young Oilers has been extremely beneficial. New Oilers General Manager Craig MacTavish spoke with Oilers season ticket holders this past week and it appears as though the team would like to hold onto Gagner after all.
“The one guy that’s definitely on our radar in terms of guys that we want to sign is Sam Gagner. He’s maybe our most highly profiled restricted free agent. Sam likes it here, he has been a valuable member of our team and is always trending up and he’ll be a guy that we’ll be looking to sign.” (630 CHED)
It’s nice to see a GM be so transparent. No more wondering if the Oilers want to keep Gagner. Now the next step is to actually lock him up long-term and as an RFA, the ball is certainly in Gagner’s court. The other centerman of interest on the team is captain Shawn Horcoff, who’s big contract is set to expire in 2015. MacTavish wasn’t so clear on the status of Horcoff, but there are certainly questions as to whether he will be with the team next season.
“The one thing I will say about players like Shawn that have been here for a long period of time, it can have a little bit of a negative effect on your spirit.”
A change of scenery may do Horcoff well, and he still has a lot to give. His grit and work ethic makes him a valuable asset for a team who’s looking for depth in their line-up. Sticking with the theme of the center ice position, MacTavish also expressed his desire for some size down the middle.
“Would we like to add a big centerman? Absolutely, and we’ll be trying to acquire that piece.”
That’s pretty clear. One knock on the Oilers is their lack of size. A few big bodies up and down the line-up will do this team’s wonders. Of course wanting a big centerman and actually getting one are two very different things. Perhaps there’s someone the Oilers could draft with their 7th overall pick that may help.
Another area of concern for the Oilers is goaltending. It sounds as though Nikolai Khabibulin won’t be with the team anymore, and management is still not completely sold on Devan Dubnyk being their starter.
“Well, we’re going to be very active in finding at least a couple goalies. The question would be, has Devan established himself as a number one goalie in the National Hockey League? And I still think it’s a valid question. So, I think that Devan, although he’s trending upwards in his numbers and played adequately for us this year, I still think, and I know Devan feels the same way, that there’s another level for him.”
Not quite the vote of confidence. The Oilers are going to make changes in the offseason, that’s a certainly. How significant those changes will be remain to be seen. Edmonton is a proud hockey city, and the on-ice results have not been near good enough the past few seasons. There likely won’t be a roster overhaul, not with all the young talent they have. But look for some subtle changes that will shore up this team’s weaknesses. MacTavish is used to being a winner. He’s not interested in losing anymore.
Marcy, a former hockey player, is a hockey correspondent on CTV News and TSN radio. She began her career as a Sports Journalist in 2009 and has been part of The Hockey Writers since 2010, where she is currently a senior writer and editor.