Edmonton Oilers, Sam Gagner

Oilers Will Likely Give Final Contract To Sam Gagner

The Edmonton Oilers’ 2023-24 campaign begins on Wednesday, Oct. 11 against the Vancouver Canucks in Vancouver. After final roster cuts, the team’s lineup is starting to take shape, but the Oilers still have a couple of decisions to make about their opening-night roster. Adam Erne, Sam Gagner, and Brandon Sutter were all given professional tryout contracts (PTO), and while Sutter has decided to call it a career rather than continue his NHL comeback, Erne and Gagner remain at camp without a contract.

It seems as though the Oilers are trying to work around some injury issues that have forced them to make some tough decisions, but with Erne still at camp, it seems as though he has won the 12th forward spot over Gagner and Raphael Lavoie. The team has no money left to give him a contract, but with him still at camp and practicing with the team on their fourth line, it seems like they’re trying to make something work.

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Entering what could be his third stint with the team — he was traded to the Detroit Red Wings at the 2020 trade deadline — Gagner didn’t appear in any preseason games, as he was recovering from a hip injury he suffered last season. The Oilers are tight against the cap, so it will be difficult to make room for either player. However, the franchise has great respect for Gagner, and he will likely earn a contract and split time between the NHL and American Hockey League (AHL) with the Bakersfield Condors.

Who Is Sam Gagner & Why Would He Benefit the Oilers?

Gagner is a 34-year-old forward from London, Ontario, who was drafted ninth overall by the Oilers in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft after a standout season in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) with the London Knights. In his draft year with the Knights, he scored 118 points (35 goals and 83 assists) through 53 games, which comes out to a 2.2 points-per-game average.

Sam Gagner Winnipeg Jets
Sam Gagner, Winnipeg Jets (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

Before he joined the Knights, Gagner played in the United States Hockey League (USHL) with the Sioux City Musketeers, where he scored 11 goals and 46 points through 56 games in 2005-06, averaging just under a point per game. He played for seven straight seasons with the Oilers, where he was a huge part of the team’s offensive production while they struggled to find any success during their failed rebuild in his first tenure with the team. He joined the Arizona Coyotes in the 2014-15 season and was still able to produce at least 40 points a season consistently, even after joining them.

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Gagne also spent time with the Red Wings, Columbus Blue Jackets, Philadelphia Flyers, Vancouver Canucks, and Winnipeg Jets, as well as a second stint with the Oilers between the end of the 2018-19 season and the first half of the 2019-20 season. While his offensive production may have slowed down, he still provides leadership and is loved in the dressing room — he’s also a fan favorite in Edmonton.

If the Oilers offer him a contract, he would be a trustworthy player that the team could call up from the Condors in the event of any injuries, and he’d be able to play well in a bottom-six role, as he’s shown he can in recent seasons with the Jets and Red Wings. He would also bring a much-needed veteran presence into the dressing room for both teams. If the Oilers can somehow make the money work, they should sign him to a one-year, two-way deal worth $775,000 AAV.

What’s Next for Gagner?

Gagner is likely near the end of his NHL career, with 1,000 games and over 500 points to his credit. He doesn’t have much more to prove, and while he won’t be a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer by any means, it would make a ton of sense for the Oilers to sign him. Hopefully, the Oilers can grant him the opportunity to go out on his terms.

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