Sam Gagner will be a huge piece to the puzzle for the Edmonton Oilers during the 2013-14 season. He recently re-signed with the team for three years in July on a deal worth up to $14.4 million over that three-year span.
Gagner will receive $4.4 million in 2013-14 and $5 million in the other two years of the deal.
General manager Craig MacTavish did a good job locking up the team’s second-line center before Gagner hit arbitration. It could have been a major distraction if it had dragged on any further.
Gagner is a solid player. He gives the team a versatile player who has upside.
However, he has had only one season where he has truly flourished. He had a career year last season with 38 points in just 48 games.
Previously, he had never scored higher than 49 points in any given season. Edmonton needs to know if he will justify the money the team has invested in him.
There is a no-movement clause in the contract for the 2014-15 season, so if Gagner stumbles next year, the Oilers can trade him the following year and will be off the hook for his remaining salary.
It is a good move for the team. The Oilers had to keep Gagner because of the situation with their regular first-line center, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
Nugent-Hopkins is coming off surgery for his injured shoulder, and it could prevent him from being ready for the season opener.
The team will need a center to help the first line with Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle if Nugent-Hopkins is out. Gagner is the only other center on the team with the pedigree to justify starting him on the first line.
When Nugent-Hopkins is back on the ice, Gagner will go back to the second line where he could very well have two excellent young players as his wingers. Projections for the line have David Perron as his left wing and Nail Yakupov as the right wing.
Perron has been a major contributor in the past for St. Louis. Yakupov is a phenom who has unlimited potential and has shown flashes of brilliance. Gagner would benefit because the talent on this line would alleviate some of the pressure placed on him.
And under new head coach Dallas Eakins, Gagner will have a bench boss that will push him to improve defensively, which could serve as a complement to his considerable offensive skills.
Edmonton did well by locking Gagner up for the next three years and risked very little in the process. Production is what the Oilers and the fans expect, especially now that he has cashed in. It’s time for Sam Gagner to prove that he is the real deal.