After looking around the Eastern Conference before the weekend, today, we will review the various options around the Western Conference for the Oilers to explore should they wish to move Sam Gagner as has been reported.
To quickly recap, Gagner's name has come up from mainstream media outlets including Elliotte Friedman with HNIC and Darren Dreger from TSN as a possible candidate for the Oilers to move before the trade deadline. I went into a little bit of detail at the onset of that previous piece making the case for what is reasonable and unreasonable as a potential return for Gagner. I won't go through the entire thing again, but to summarize...expecting a #1 defenceman or established starting goaltender is likely setting sights a too high unless the Oilers are willing to add significantly to a trade package.
I also set what I believe are reasonably obvious criteria that any return the team would receive in exchange for Gagner would likely have to meet:
To get down to specifics, any player targeted by MacTavish in a Gagner trade is likely to be meet the following criteria:
- Likely a single player or player and prospect combination involving an established NHL talent.
- A player under contract for at least one season beyond this year or a pending RFA.
- Likely not a key piece on a team with significant playoff aspirations this year (teams the Cup dreams don't typically move out important pieces in order to add players mid-season...those deals are typically for picks, prospects, etc.)
- Depending on the team's cap situation, there may be a need to match dollars in with dollars out as many teams are not in a position to take on Gagner's $4.8M salary unless the send out a comparable cap hit in the deal.
With that framework once again as the guideline, Let's once again take a look around to see what other teams have to offer that may be of use to the Oilers.
Once again, the disclaimer:
[NOTE: Just because I identify a player here, it does not necessarily mean I believe that a) that player alone represents fair value for Sam Gagner in a 1-for-1 deal, or b) that the player's current team would trade them straight up for Gagner]
CHI - That point above about teams with Cup aspirations not wanting to subtract from their current line-up is going to show up a bit around the powerhouse West. Case in point, the Blackhawks. Do they have pieces that fill Oiler needs? Of course. Marcus Kruger fits that bill. There are other matches like Nick Leddy, but again, expecting the Blackhawks to subtract from a very strong roster is probably folly. In the off-season, possibilities may expand, but in season things are a bit of a dead-end. The Oilers apparently once coveted prospect Mark McNeill, but they need immediate help, and the 'Hawks don't have cap space to take on Gagner's salary without sending money back anyway.
STL - If Chicago is exhibit A, the Blues are exhibit B. They are unlikely to deviate from their current path unless they can add without subtracting from their current group. Players like Roman Polak could be a fit, but don't expect the Blues to deal from their current line-up before the off-season, with the possible exception of everyone's favourite former Oiler Magnus Paajarvi, who is obviously not likely someone Craig MacTavish would consider a worthwhile return for Gagner on his own.
COL - In Denver, the Oilers would obviously love a guy like Ryan O'Reilly, but would likely have to put up a fair amount of additional assets beyond Gagner to get that done. Plus, O'Reilly cannot be traded until just before the deadline due to his offer sheet ordeal last season. Beyond that, PA Parenteau doesn't bring anything the Oilers don't have already. Jamie McGinn is someone who may be available. He brings a moderate amount of the much sought-after "size" quotient at 6'1", 210 lbs. McGinn is only 25 and is on pace for a career year offensively, which isn't saying a great deal, but it proves there is still some growth taking place in his game. Likely not someone you part with Sam Gagner for though.
MIN - Depending on Minnesota's placement in the standings as the deadline approaches, there could be some options here. Minnesota lacks offensive depth down the middle and on the right side, either of which Gagner could help with. They are in the bottom 10 in the NHL in goals for and after a great start, have fallen back to the pack. They hold the final wild card in the West, but only by a few points and they have played a number of games more than many of the teams right behind them. Two names jump off the page here for me. Former Oiler Kyle Brodziak and Dman Marco Scandella. Brodziak has developed into an excellent depth forward who handles some of the league's toughest minutes in Minnesota. Scandella would be a near perfect fit for the Oilers. He is 6'3", 210 lbs, he is young (23) but a proven NHLer who is handling some tough minutes with success in Minnesota this year. He has some offensive upside, but is more of a PK guy when it comes to special teams. He would immediatley be the team's best left-handed defenceman and while not a guy you'd like to overwhelm against the opposition's best game after game...he's better than anything the team currently has and would be a nice piece to include in the much needed reconstruction of the Oiler blueline.
DAL - Lots more options here, as I put in big bold text at the top of this list of teams...I don't know how many of these players match up well in terms of making a trade involving Sam Gagner. The holy grail here is Brenden Dillon, but I don't know how one might pry him away from the Stars. For proponents of size, I'm sure they would love Alex Chiaisson, but again, I don't see Dallas parting with one of their young players who have shown so well at times this year. Perhaps a player like Trevor Daley could be someone who shakes loose. The team has a -12 goal differential and could use some more offence, but I don't know if I see a place for Gagner in Dallas. They have the pieces the Oilers should covet though to be certain.
WPG - Stories are everywhere with the poor performance of the Jets this season (which some of us expected with their move to the West) that some of their core assets are possibly available. If Byfuglien or Enstrom are available on the blueline, with Big Buf more likely, I think the Oilers have to be among those calling, as Jonathan Willis said recently. A player like Evander Kane obviously carries a huge price tag and isn't really someone I see the Oilers targeting anyway. Though I can't see it, there have been a few media reports that there is consideration to moving Andrew Ladd. If so, the Oilers should be banging down Kevin Cheveldayoff's door.
NSH - A lot in Nashville depends on how the Preds react to their (totally predictable) failure this season. Nashville's off-season moves were highly questionable. If the Preds decide to move Shea Weber to address their offensive woes, then obviously Sam Gagner could only serve as a secondary piece in a deal built around one of the team's more high-profile players, but his value in a package like that should not be discounted. Not many teams could offer two proven NHL top six forwards under the age of 25 and signed long-term as a start to a package for the Preds to consider. Beyond the obvious drooling over Weber, Patrick Hornqvist is a guy who falls into that category that so many people feel doesn't exist. He's not overly big, but he plays aggressive, lives in front of the net, and scores goals from inside 10 feet. If he were 4 inches taller and 20 pounds heavier, he'd be exactly what fans and MSM guys are crying for. He still should be as he could greatly help the Oilers. His contract is very similar to that of Gagner's and while I'd wager it might not work as a 1 for 1 swap, depending on how NSH weighs their desire to add skill compared to the value they place on Hornqvist, I could see those players being the basis for the framework of a trade between the two teams.
Summary: In a trend that will basically write-off many of the teams in the Pacific, the elite teams don't really prove much in the way of a fit, but teams like Minnesota, Winnipeg and Nashville should absolutely be among MacT's most frequently calls. Dallas has the peices Edmonton is after, but I don't know about Gagner fitting with the roster they have assembled.
SJS - Not a great deal off the Sharks roster here that is a match...at least nothing it is imaginable they part with during a season with such potential.
ANA - This basically comes down to goaltending. If EDM could convince ANA to load up for a playoff run by taking Gagner at the expense of one of their young goaltenders (Anderson or Gibson), then certainly it would be worth discussing, but I don't imagine that is happening with Viktor Fasth's injury problems and the expectation that Hiller is likely to leave as a UFA in the summer. Speaking of UFA's, Daniel Winnik would be a perfect fit for the Oilers if he weren't headed for free agency this summer as well. If only someone had known what a great fit he could have been two years ago when he went unsigned for the entire summer? Oh well. Maybe this summer the Oilers will have learned their lesson?
LAK - The Kings' useage chart (via Extra Skater) is bordering on absurd. I think they should be allowed to use the #SeaOfBlue hashtag on twitter instead of the Maple Leafs. Why would anyone want to mess with that group? Answer? They likely wouldn't. They may want to use some futures to rent a few pieces for a Cup drive, but the Oilers and Sam Gagner do not fit that equation.
PHX - In the desert, the Coyotes are starved for young skilled forwards and have an abundance of defencemen and useful role players. So, you'd think a fit was natural, right? but Gagner's price tag sort of falls into a middle ground where it is difficult to find a match. Lauri Korpikosky might be one name, but I don't think Oiler fans would be overly excited about that. Phoenix is perhaps the one other team where depth from outside the NHL maybe worth considering as part of a package. The Oilers were high on Oil King Henrik Samuelsson in his draft year, but with no pro games of experience, he's no immediate help. Brandon Gormley is a nice prospect on the Coyote blueline who likely is worthy an immediate audition on the Oiler blueline, but he's again, an unknown NHL commodity.
CGY - Does anyone really think the Oilers are going to make two deals with the Flames in a single season? If the Flames wanted to jettison Mikael Backlund, TJ Galiardi or former Oiler Curtis Glencross, then I imagine the Oilers would and should listen.
VAN - Finally, in Vancouver, Jannik Hansen fits the criteria, but I don't see a match that would result in a deal that works for both sides.
Summary: Not nearly as many matches from with the Oilers' own division. Of course, deals of that nature are fairly uncommon anyway. It's worth placing a call to Don Maloney in Phoenix and to see what kind of unorthodox plans Burke has in mind down in Calgary.
Overall, there are some nice opportunities in the West, specifically in the Central division. If the Oilers really do wish to move Sam Gagner, I think it should be something that is possible and that the return can be something that can help the Oilers in both the short and long term. That said, unless Gagner is a piece in a larger package involving superior players, I don't think anyone should be carrying lofty expectations of being blown away by what comes back to Edmonton if #89 leaves town before the trade deadline.