The lockout-shortened season wasn’t short on frustration for the Edmonton Oilers, who missed the playoffs yet again despite coming into the regular season with higher-than-usual expectations. Even in missing the playoffs, there was plenty of individual success throughout the roster.
One player who may have needed that success more than anyone was Sam Gagner. Gagner has had a frustrating few years with the Oilers, failing to live up to his billing as the sixth overall pick back in the 2007 draft. This season was a different story, though.
While his offensive output wasn’t a career mark, it easily would have been had this been a full season. Gagner finished the regular season with the highest scoring rate of his career and it wasn’t even close.
In 48 games this season, Gagner posted 38 points. Fourteen of those points were goals, as he added 24 helpers in a potent Oilers offense. His career high for points is 49, a mark that easily would have been broken if this were a full 82-game schedule.
There are still some negatives for Gagner from this season, though. His faceoff percentage was ugly, winning a putrid 43 percent of his draws. That’s something that he’s never been particularly strong at, though, with his playmaking skills being the primary reason he’s still a center.
The question for the Oilers is going to be whether or not they’ll choose to re-sign him, as he’s a restricted free agent this summer, or try and trade his rights off to another club and acquire some defense. The answer isn’t as simple as it may seem.
This is a team with plenty of offensive talent. There are a ton of skilled forwards up front that will help produce for this club for the next several years. However, they lack depth down the middle. We saw nearly every center on the roster go down this season, which really exposed their lack of depth at the position.
Which makes Gagner very valuable. Which he could use in contract talks. Which could drive his price up. If his price gets too high, then the Oilers could ship him out for some defensive help, which is a much larger area of need than forward is at this point.
There may not be a correct answer to what the Oilers should do with Gagner. Either one makes sense. Which route they’ll choose to go remains to be seen. Will Gagner be back, or will his asking price become too great and lead to a trade this summer? Stay tuned.