After a couple years of trade rumors, Sam Gagner is finally on his way out of Edmonton. Coming in to the Oilers is another offensive winger in Teddy Purcell.
In terms of scoring, Edmonton gets the more productive and more healthy player over the past few seasons. And Gagner’s days as Edmonton’s second line center were all but over after another season without improvement and with his no-trade clause about to kick in. But the acquisition of a top-six winger is curious. The move creates a convenient roster hole for center Leon Draisaitl, who the team picked third overall in Friday’s draft. Not that they would make a trade like this to create an automatic opening on the second line for an 18-year-old (at least, we don’t think so), but without many other acquirable centers available, the opportunity will be hanging there for the German.
If Edmonton is left in a position where Draisaitl replaces Gagner in the lineup next season, the organization will be playing with fire once again. Remember, Gagner was taken sixth overall in 2007 and went straight into the NHL lineup after a 118-point season with London. He scored 49 points as an NHL rookie, never reached that amount again, and was driven out of town by the age of 24.
As they say, a player was never ruined within an organization by being returned to junior and brought along with patience.
Meanwhile, with Purcell joining Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and David Perron as the probable top-two line wingers, does the possibility of a premature Nail Yakupov trade open up, or will he become part of a third line that has a bit of a scoring bite with Mark Arcobello? I mean, they still have to get a solid defenseman or two this off-season, right? Eventually the focus needs to turn there.
Gagner was headed to Tampa Bay, where it looked like he’d be moved out of the center position he’s kind of stalled at. But shortly after the Edmonton-Tampa Bay trade news was announced, Gagner was traded to the Arizona Coyotes, who bought out center Mike Riberio this weekend. With Ribeiro out of the way, Gagner will almost certainly remain as a top-two center with the Coyotes. The thing is, the Coyotes are a defensive team, an area Gagner didn’t excel in down the middle with Edmonton. Whether that was a result of a flawed Edmonton Way that can be reversed by Dave Tippett, we’re about to find out.
In return for Gagner, the Lightning get…salary cap space. The Coyotes gave up only a sixth round pick for the center, only two-thirds of his salary and B.J. Crombeen, while the Lightning freed up about $4 million after the two trades. Because the Tampa re-signed Ryan Callahan and traded for Jason Garrison recently in a bid to take a hard run at the soft East, you have to wonder if this maneuvering leads to another aggressive move.
But back to Edmonton for a moment. Are they staying inside their broken pattern? Since they made a trade that leaves the second line center position open, Oilers management must find the prospect of having Draisaitl in the lineup acceptable on some level.
If Edmonton can’t overpay one of the few centers available in free agency this summer, or somehow trade for one, it’s scary to think the still-rebuilding Oilers might start Draisaitl’s career on the same note as the player they just traded at 24 years old.