Trade Sam Gagner?

In the post below, respected commenter RiversQ says the following:

I like Gagner, but I’d love to see the Oilers move a young player before everybody realizes they can’t play hockey. If Gagner isn’t a true top six forward, I want to see him gone ASAP before his value goes in the toilet. I still have hope for him, but he’s progressing slowly.

Small edit in there, but that’s the thrust of his idea. I’ve made my feelings on Gagner (and young prospects in general) well known, but RQ’s point is a strong one. The Oilers have a lot of young forwards here (to turn a phrase and borrow from Kevin Lowe at the same time) and things have changed rapidly in Oilerville. Consider:

  • Taylor Hall, Magnus Pääjärvi and Jordan Eberle have clearly established themselves as quality options for serious even-strength playing time.
  • Omark is a player of interest in this area too.
  • A very similar player to Gagner (Ryan Nugent-Hopkins) is available at the 2011 entry draft.
  • Sam Gagner is about 1.5 years away from a big payday.

Those are significant issues. For me, I think it comes down to the fact that the Oilers are so poor at center that they really do have to look at turning over a significant amount of the depth chart at the position. Shawn Horcoff isn’t going anywhere (nor should he), but a look at the current faceoff percentages this season exposes the group:

  • Horcoff 48.2
  • Fraser 43.3
  • Gagner 41.6
  • Cogliano 41.5

Coach Renney is using Cogliano more as a PK option (2:11 a night, 2nd among F’s) and the speedy center seems to be responding. Gagner’s offense at EVs is about the same:

By The Numbers (evens)

  • 07-08 5×5 per 60m: 1.96
  • 08-09 5×5 per 60m: 1.69
  • 09-10 5×5 per 60m: 1.56
  • 10-11 5×5 per 60m: 1.76

He was on track for a quality season not long ago, but the current alignment doesn’t appear to benefit him. Gagner is on a high event line with two rookies and his points per game and FO number in that time are poor. I believe we need to keep him because Sam Gagner is 21 years old, a smart player and will get better.

It may not be enough. NHL teams always have options, but the lottery Oilers have great ones, and Andrew Cogliano may be moving ahead of #89 in the coach’s estimation.

It’s time we at least consider the idea of cashing Gagner for help elsewhere. I vote no.

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