When current Arizona Coyotes center Sam Gagner cracked the Edmonton Oilers as an 18-year-old in 2007, it looked like he was going to be the next star in Alberta. The year before, he centered a line in the Ontario Hockey League with Chicago Blackhawks superstar Patrick Kane and his offensive abilities looked to be on the high end. Seven years later, Gagner could be nearing his last chance.
After recording 49 points in that 2007-08 season, Gagner hasn’t hit the mark since and his future as a top six forward is cloudy at best. While he has shown flashes (he had an eight-point game in 2012), he hasn’t been consistent enough to warrant playing in a scoring role full-time. He also lacks the grit to play in a checking-defensive role, meaning his NHL future could very well be hanging in the balance even at the young age of 25.
Despite being a competitive team in recent years, the Coyotes have struggled to score, and seemingly every time they address the issue, it backfires (Mike Ribeiro). While no one will mistake Gagner for Ryan Getzlaf, he has a decent set of hands and very good on-the-ice vision. If he can get some of the young wingers going offensively, then he will be well worth the sixth-round pick the Coyotes invested in him.
Gagner was traded from the Oilers to the Tampa Bay Lightning, that planned on buying out his contract before the Coyotes stepped in and traded for him. These type of shrewd moves epitomize the Coyotes’ organization and personify the old saying “one man’s trash is another mean’s treasure.” The Coyotes hope that treasure is an increase in team scoring and return to the potential that Gagner once flashed in Edmonton.