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Monday, February 13, 2012

Oilers - Gagner Trade Talk

Honestly, it surprises me to hear people talking about trading Gagner (rather than signing him to a long-term deal), and if the Oilers are considering it I would be shocked. Come this summer Gagner will be a restricted free agent, which means that if the Oilers don’t offer him a big contract before that time he would have no choice but to consider offers from other teams; however, since he is a restricted free agent the Oilers can match any offer and keep him on the team. Or, the Oilers can let him go to another team and receive a little compensation in the form of draft picks. Gagner is only 22 years old and why trade a great player who is part of the team’s core? The declared plan of the Oilers is to keep the core players together and build around them so that the ultimate prize—the Stanley Cup—can be won again! Oiler’s owner Daryl Katz, and president Kevin Lowe, need to stay true to the plan rather than trading away the team’s chance to win the Cup. However, in my opinion they already broke the plan by trading Dustin Penner last year. You have to have some big forwards and Dustin was improving every year, and in fact he was easily the team’s leading scorer in the 2009-2010 season with 63 points. I am still stunned!

If you don’t know of Gagner’s background, let me just say that he was absolutely awesome in the Greater Toronto Hockey League, and also in his one year in the OHL. He was then drafted by the Oilers in 2007 (their 1st Round pick which was the 6th pick overall) and in his first season (2007-2008) he had 49 points in 79 games. In 2008-2009 he had 41 points in 76 games, in 2009-2010 he had 41 points in 68 games, and last year he had 42 points in 68 games. Thus far this year he has 36 points in 48 games, missing 7 games due to injury. True, he was struggling some up until the record 8 point night, but some of it was due to coming back from an injury and less ice time, and yes, some of it was mental. Note that Gagner is only one of three players on the team who is “plus” in the “plus-minus” category. He is +2, Eberle is +4 and Sutton is +2.  

Anyway, if the Oilers were to trade Gagner rather than locking him long-term it would be a humongous mistake just as letting go of Penner was a mistake (and we all know that he was traded because he was entering into the last year on his contract and Tambellini did not want to spend too much money). The Oilers should try to keep Gagner, Eberle, Hall, and Nugent-Hopkins (wait and see how he does next year and how his small body holds-up) and go forward to take a run at the Cup. However, when Eberle is a restricted free agent (following the end of next year) the Oilers are going to have a hard time keeping him because they won’t want to spend what he is worth. If Eberle stays with the Oilers (they pay him enough or match a contract offer) it won’t be forever. You could expect him to leave as soon as he gets unrestricted free agent status, not only for more money but also because he is bitter that the Oilers did not allow him to play in the 2009-2010 season.

Finally, Oiler owners and GM’s have made more than their share of mistakes throughout the team’s history and let us hope that they will not focus entirely on money and try to keep the remaining core players together. The fans deserve a winner!

TJ Stanley