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|Oilers avoid arbitration with Gagner|
|Written by Mike Cook|
|Wednesday, 25 July 2012 11:50|
A lot of people talk about the Oilers' young, talented forwards, but one player that is often overlooked is 22-year-old center, Sam Gagner. The Oilers proved that they don't overlook Gagner, however, signing him to a one-year, $3.2 millon contract.Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are widely regarded as the future of the Edmonton Oilers. Nail Yakupov, selected first at the recent draft, may someday also be in that group.
But a less heralded part of the youthful Oilers is guaranteed to be in the mix for another season.
Sam Gagner agreed to a one-year, $3.2 million deal just before a July 20 arbitration hearing. It is a nearly $1 million raise from what the team’s projected second-line center made last season.
“I’m really excited," Gagner said. "Arbitration is something you want to avoid if you can, and I’m just happy something got done and I’m signed up for next year.
“We see good things for Sam, and it’s a great opportunity to take it to another level,” Oilers assistant general manager Rick Olczyk said. “He’s only 22 years old, and I think he’s got a lot of good days ahead of him.”
The upcoming season will be Gagner's sixth in Edmonton. He is best known for his eight-point game against Chicago in February, even though he scored a career-high 18 goals and had 29 assists in 75 games last season.
He has 77 goals and 143 assists for 220 points in 366 career games, second only to Chicago’s Patrick Kane among 2007 draft picks.
However, it is his inconsistency that had the 5-foot-11, 195-pound Gagner frequently mentioned in potential trades prior to last season’s deadline. Within a week of the Chicago game he’d collected another six points. Those 14 points in four games were nearly 30 percent of his season total.
"There were some really high times that made (last season) a lot of fun; I still need to continue to work on ironing out the low times and making sure that they don’t happen as often," Gagner said. "If I’m at the top of my game all year it’s going to help our group.”
Gagner was reportedly looking for a long-term deal similar to that recently signed by St. Louis’ David Perron (four years, $3.8 million cap hit), but the sides could not agree on a multi-year deal.
While the Edmonton Journal reported the Oilers said money was the stumbling block in putting together a longer deal, the one-year deal could prove to be a bit of organizational reluctance to commit to a player who was selected sixth overall in 2007, but has yet to surpass his 49-point rookie campaign of five seasons ago.
“I think at the end of the day this worked out for the best," said Gagner, who will be a restricted free agent after next season. "There’s still an opportunity, obviously, to stay in Edmonton long term, and I need to have another good year this year and continue to solidify myself as a good NHL player and reach new levels."
Gagner isn’t putting extra pressure on himself, at least not as much as he’s putting extra pressure on the whole team that will be trying to make the playoffs for the first time in six seasons.
“There has to be extra pressure on everyone. … As a group, we haven’t done as well as we would have hoped the past few years,” Gagner said. “We have to have that internal pressure where we’re trying to get better every day and push each other to new heights.”
With Olli Jokinen now in Winnipeg, Calgary’s Mike Cammalleri has gotten his No. 13 sweater back. … Denver's new CHL hockey team, the Cutthroats, reached an affiliation agreement with the Avalanche, meaning Cutthroats players can be promoted to the AHL and NHL levels. … Watch the Avs mascot, Bernie, rappel down a Denver skyscraper. … Edmonton signed Yakupov, the top pick in the 2012 draft, to a three-year entry level contract. "We're very happy to sign Nail to a three-year contract. He's an extremely talented and passionate young man who we feel will be an integral part of our team for many years to come," said GM Steve Tambellini. … Minnesota signed D Mathew Dumba, the seventh overall pick in this year’s draft, to an entry-level contract. The 17-year-old was 20-37-57 in 69 games for Red Deer of the Western Hockey League (WHL) last season. He led all WHL defensemen in goals and was sixth in points. … Zach Parise recently threw out a first pitch at a Minnesota Twins game. Parise was also married last Saturday in Minneapolis. … The Canucks named Mike Foligno an assistant coach at AHL Chicago.
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