NHL Trade Rumors: Maple Leafs Must Avoid Buying into Sam Gagner Hype

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistFebruary 16, 2012

DETROIT, MI - FEBRUARY 08:  Sam Gagner #89 of the Edmonton Oilers celebrates a second period goal with teammates while playing the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena on February 8, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

It's no surprise the Edmonton Oilers are attempting to capitalize on Sam Gagner's recent hot streak by parlaying him into a young defenseman or two. The Toronto Maple Leafs must be sure to avoid overpaying for a player whose track record says he's nothing more than an average center at best.

Bob Mitchell of the Toronto Star examined the chances of Gagner landing with the Leafs before the NHL trade deadline, which is only 11 days away:

Edmonton has one of the best young group of forwards in the league with Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins but they need some better pieces on defense. The Leafs have an excess of young blueliners, who could grow nicely with a team on the rise such as the Oilers.

Gagner broke onto the North American sports scene earlier in the month when he scored eight points in a game against the Chicago Blackhawks. He's been able to keep the Midas touch alive since then with seven points in five games.

More important than his current run is the pace he was on before it. Before his February breakout, Gagner was on pace to score 42 points this season. That total actual fits perfectly in line with his career numbers as he's had a final point total in the 40s every year since debuting in 2007.

There is no worse move for a franchise than buying high on the trade market. It rarely works out because the player is simply playing beyond his actual ability, and his production will eventually fall back down to expected levels. That's certainly the case with Gagner.

The fact his move would be from a laid-back fanbase like Edmonton's to a diehard group like Toronto's wouldn't help his cause, either. Expectations would be through the roof when he arrives. If he didn't produce like a top-notch center it wouldn't take long before people start calling him a bust.

While Mitchell is right to point out the Leafs' excess on the blue line, it doesn't mean the team should start moving them right now. Depth is never a bad thing. Let the young defensemen keep developing in the system and their value will only keep increasing.

Gagner wouldn't have been a bad addition last month because the cost would have been reasonable for a No. 2 or No. 3 center, but now that Edmonton is likely seeking a high No. 2 or low No. 1 price for him it isn't worth it to Toronto.

The Leafs would be much better off seeking out other options or simply sticking with the lineup which has them in a playoff spot with 24 games to go.