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Gagner heats up

Sam Gagner has a goal and nine points in 21 games, but has seven points in his past eight games. (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Sam Gagner has a goal and nine points in 21 games, but has seven points in his past eight games. (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

Edmonton Oilers center Sam Gagner has often been mentioned in trade rumors this season, with one recent report linking him to the Chicago Blackhawks.

David Staples of the Edmonton Journal, however, doubts Gagner will be dealt, especially if the improvement he's shown in recent games continues.

Staples points out Gagner's slow start this season was largely due to the fact he was coming off two injuries (hand and ankle), but over the past eight games, the 22-year-old center not only regained his offensive touch (seven points in those eight games), but also improved his defensive play.

That improved play will also increase his trade value. Staples acknowledged any player is moveable for the right price, but argues Gagner would have more value to the Oilers as a fill-in on one of their top two lines.

Gagner is a restricted free agent next summer earning $2.3 million this season and, given his slide down the Oilers depth chart, his future in Edmonton is murky.

For the time being, his recent improvement will keep him with the Oilers – and if they stay in the playoff chase, he’ll likely finish the season there.

PHIL-ING THE GAP

Recent injuries to veteran Flyers defensemen Chris Pronger and Andreas Lilja, plus concerns over the status of Andrej Meszaros, sparked musings management is considering a trade or free agent signing to fill the gap.

Philly.com cited sources saying the Flyers have no interest in Calgary Flames blueliner Cory Sarich or UFA D-man Bryan McCabe.

One reason is the potential difficulty the Flyers would have absorbing Sarich's $3.6-million cap hit or the cost of signing McCabe. Another is the impressive performances of Marc-Andre Bourdon and Kevin Marshall, who have performed well since being called-up.

KILLER INSTINCT

The San Jose Sharks woeful penalty kill (currently last in the league at 74 percent) has become an area of concern for their fans, inspiring one to suggest to ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun they should trade a struggling Dan Boyle for younger talent.

LeBrun dismissed the notion of trading Boyle, saying he expected him to improve as the season progressed. However, he acknowledged a horrible PK is “unacceptable for a Stanley Cup contender.”

LeBrun believes the problem is the lack of quality depth on San Jose’s third and fourth lines, and suggested they look toward adding “veteran checkers” with reliable penalty-killing skills by the February trade deadline.

The Sharks do have a potential bargaining chip in goaltender Antero Niittymaki, who is expected to become trade bait once he returns later this month from off-season hip surgery.

DUCK NOT FLYING NORTH

Winnipeg Jets fans shouldn't get their hopes up over the possibility of the struggling Anaheim Ducks shipping right winger Teemu Selanne back to Manitoba later this season to finish his NHL career where it began.

Ducks GM Bob Murray shot down that possibility, telling CBC's Elliotte Friedman Selanne “will retire an Anaheim Duck.”

 

Rumor Roundup appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and Kukla's Korner.

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