Would you trade the top-scoring player on your team if you thought it would help your team get better in the long run? This could be the question that the Edmonton Oilers are facing with regard to center Sam Gagner, and it’s an intriguing one.
Gagner has been the source of trade rumors off and on the past couple seasons because he has not progressed the way that fans and the organization had hoped he would have done by now. Taken with the sixth overall pick in the 2007 Draft, it was assumed at one time that Gagner would grow to be one of the Oilers’ top scorers, especially after he tallied a career-high 49 points in 79 games during his rookie season. In the seasons that have followed, however, he has been a 41- or 42-point player, and if his eight-point game against the Chicago Blackhawks last season was cut by five or six points, he would have been right at 41 or 42 points again.
So why would the Oilers entertain the idea of trading someone who appears to have finally found his scoring touch, tallying 17 points in the season’s first 17 games? At 23 years old, he still has room to grow and find his game, and you can argue that he is finally finding it this season and that his recent success could translate into future dividends for an Oilers club that perennially seems to be near the bottom of the league in scoring despite all their offensive talent. Of course the other side of that coin is that he is just in the middle of an insanely hot streak, isn’t really going to get any better in the coming years, and might be worth shipping off while his value is higher than usual.
If the Oilers try to trade for the Colorado Avalanche‘s Ryan O’Reilly, Gagner would have to go back to the Avalanche, so there is always that possibility (though Gagner for O’Reilly straight up isn’t likely to satisfy either team). And much like previous seasons, the Oilers are in dire need of a top-flight defenseman to help sort out their issues on the blue line. Could they be bold enough to try to pry one away from the Phoenix Coyotes, Toronto Maple Leafs or even someone like the Dallas Stars again, all of which have a wealth of defensemen at their disposal?
A trade would have to improve the club, so an upgrade at center or defense would have to be part of the deal. The question is: Would Edmonton really want to make such a deal?