According to various media sources, including TSN’s Bob McKenzie, the Los Angeles Kings and Edmonton Oilers are in serious talks about a trade that would send centre Sam Gagner to Tinsel Town. It’s no Gretzky Trade, but hey, this one would count as a minor blockbuster nonetheless.
To be clear, I can't assure you Clifford + a pick or prospect for Gagner + EDM retaining $ is guaranteed to happen but it's being discussed.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) February 6, 2014
Sam Gagner is a smaller skilled forward on a team that does not lack for smaller skilled forwards. 1st overall picks Taylor Hall (2010), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (2011) and Nail Yakupov (2012) formulate an up-and-coming offensive unit with high-end potential that could be realized throughout the next ten years. Throw in clutch performer Jordan Eberle, who is listed at 5-foot-11, and there is no surprise that Gagner may be deemed expendable by Oilers GM Craig MacTavish.
As McKenzie’s tweet reveals, the expected return for Gagner is a package that includes a third-line centre in Kyle Clifford, and a draft pick or a prospect. Depending on how high the pick is, and how solid the prospect is, the deal could be a great one for the Oilers, who have struggled to meet expectations in recent years, but are still loaded with an extremely young core that won’t hit full stride together for another few years.
ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun claims talks have intensified between the Kings and the Oilers:
Hearings talks have intensified over past few days between Edmonton and LA Kings over Sam Gagner… Whether it gets done or not, not sure…
— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) February 6, 2014
McKenzie and LeBrun are very plugged in, therefore, a trade could be imminent.
The Kings are two years removed from winning the Stanley Cup in 2012. Winning the 2014 Stanley Cup is likely a high priority for L.A. and it’s also a very realistic goal; the Kings are considered a top contender.
The Oilers find themselves in a much different situation than the Kings. Edmonton has been eliminated from the playoffs for most of this season; the organization would be wise to make as many smart moves as possible now as part of a plan to emerge as a playoff calibre team in time for next season, when all the top young players within the franchise will be another year older and more mature.
Second line centres don’t grow on trees in the NHL, nor is Sam Gagner clearly a good number two up the middle, however, on the right team, surrounded by the right talent, he could make an impact; be an upgrade.
It would not be surprising if a few other NHL clubs have called about Gagner’s services. For instance, the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks are in desperate need of a second line centre, and have the tradable assets to acquire one if they can locate one who is available, like Gagner.
Sam Gagner trade rumours are nothing new. In fact, last season around this time his name was mentioned in many what if scenarios. When the Oilers began bottoming out and drafting first overall several years in a row, it became apparent to many that Gagner would eventually become the odd man out unless his game reached an elite level, which it has not.
The Oilers can be picky here. They hold the asset, therefore, they can call the shots; make sure the received return for Gagner is substantial. With no playoffs on the horizon, there is no need for MacTavish to make a panic move and ship his 23-year-old centre to a contender unless the return is worth it. Gagner’s young enough and promising enough to be dealt in the summer or next season or whenever a worthwhile offer lands on the table.
It will be interesting to see what happens over the next few days, and into the March 5 NHL trade deadline. Very often, the rumours are heavy at this time of season but no action is taken until the last minute – the final hour – when NHL general managers have a tendency to go big or go home.