The Sam Gagner contract is going to be a tough one for Craig MacTavish. If his outer marker is the Hall contract ($6M times 7) then Gagner has to fall below that in both cap and term. The question is: how much below?
There’s a few things we know based on the silence from both sides right now:
- The two sides are far enough apart that getting this thing wrapped up isn’t a quick item.
- The deadline of a hearing is a bigger bomb for the Oilers than it is for Gagner.
- MacT can’t allow this thing to go to arbitration.
- MacT can’t afford to trade Sam Gagner without getting a capable center in return.
And there’s one important thing Sam Gagner may have decided that will very likely mean he’s in a new town next week: he and his agent may have as their #1 priority testing free agency next season–the youngest ever to do so.
SURPRISE, SURPRISE SURPRISE
Let’s say you and I are neighbours and you have a car for sale. I need a car because we’re driving to Ontario this summer, and you want $22,000 for the car. We’ve talked and we’ve joked around about the price and we’re pretty comfortable with each other (although not friends). I tell my wife I’m going to get that car for $18,000 and decide the best time to buy the car from you is the Friday before we travel (leaving me the weekend and Monday to get the insurance, etc).
I figure the fact that it’s left so late will give you impetus to make a deal you have in your back pocket, and that you’re probably tired of not being able to park your two cars in the garage without moving the sale car out of the way.
So, on the Friday morning I knock on your door. I tell you there’s $16,000 cash in my pocket and would like to get this deal done today–I’m deciding between this and another vehicle and have decided yours is slightly better. Now, you tell me that it’s $22,000 firm–didn’t you tell me that? you thought you did–and we start going back and forth. I’ve set the offer so that we should be able to come in around $19,000, but when I go up you won’t go down. We’ve never really had a discouraging word between each other, and now I’m wondering why you’re so stubborn–no one says $22,000 and then STAYS at $22,000–and you’re wondering why I don’t understand words like “firm” and thinking about your coffee getting cold in the house.
After 45 minutes, I thank you, go back to my house and tell my wife you’re an idiot, he does the same. My wife says “I told you not to leave this so late” and his wife says “he probably thought you were willing to back down on the price–are you sure you told him 22 firm?” and maybe we meet out on the driveway later and maybe we don’t (I’m very stubborn, it’s a Dutch weakness).
I think there’s a little of that in this negotiation, although clearly there’s no way I could have specific knowledge. Maybe Sam Gagner and his agent have a value in their heads–$5.5 million for 6 years, or $4.5M for one year, or $5.25M for 5 years with a NTC–and the Oilers are waiting for them to come down on their demands. And it hasn’t happened and it’s Friday.
The problem? The Oilers have far more to lose than Sam Gagner. Short and curlies as they say. The center depth chart looks like scorched earth without him.
NHL DEFENSE IS A DOG’S LIFE
The Oilers have so much depth on defense now that it’s a good guess we’ll see 8 breakers opening night. If we sat down and made a depth chart, I think it’s interesting to see how many players the team may have to either trade or risk waivers on when cutdown day comes:
1. Ladislav Smid
2. Jeff Petry
3. Andrew Ference
4. Justin Schultz
5. Nick Schultz
6. Anton Belov
7. Denis Grebeshkov
8. Phil Larsen
9. Corey Potter
10. Oscar Klefbom
11. Martin Marincin
12. Taylor Fedun
13. Brandon Davidson
14. Brad Hunt
15. Martin Gernat
16. David Musil
17. Joey Leach
Potter’s sphincter must be around his Adam’s apple by now, poor guy. The one thing we can tell him this morning is that the odds of the 8 guys ahead of him being completely healthy opening night are well short of 100%. If I knew him, I’d also say that the odds he makes this team are better than they were the year he got here and that the Renney hire in Edmonton was a lucky break for him but he’s earned this career with the Oilers. I’d also tell him he’s not expensive and that a trade during training camp is possible.
I wouldn’t have to tell him to arrive in shape and ready. From all we know about him, Corey Potter has done everything asked and more since he arrived in town. If he’s sent down the road, attitude and fitness will not be the motive.
If the Swedish kid beats him though, all bets are off.