The Edmonton Oilers are open to bringing veteran forward Sam Gagner back for a third stint with the team, as they’ve signed him to a professional tryout today. The team also confirmed the previously reported PTO for center Brandon Sutter, who’s missed the last two seasons with long COVID symptoms.
Gagner, 34, is not the player the Oilers envisioned they were getting when they selected him sixth overall in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. However, he remains a serviceable 13th forward on his worst day and a consistent bottom-six presence on his best. He played last season in a Winnipeg Jets uniform, missing the last few weeks of the 2022-23 season due to a hip injury. He managed to get into 48 games while playing a solid leadership role, however, recording eight goals and 14 points while posting quite advantageous possession metrics, something he’s done routinely over the years despite playing on some subpar teams – he’s made the playoffs just twice in his 16-year, 1,015-game career.
He was coming off a solid campaign with the Detroit Red Wings in 2021-22, playing in 81 of 82 games whilst recording 13 goals and 18 assists for 31 points. He’s been a solid bet for somewhere between 30 and 45 points through most of his career. At this stage, that’s not likely (especially given the limited bottom-six role he might play in Edmonton), but he is a dependable presence who’s managed to consistently avoid being a liability.
The Oilers’ biggest question mark regarding roster construction lies at the fourth-line center spot, which is quickly becoming rather obvious by signing a pair of candidates for the position to PTOs. There’s also Lane Pederson in the mix for the job, who they signed to a two-year, league-minimum one-way deal on July 1. AHL veteran Brad Malone, who recorded 21 points in 41 games with the Bakersfield Condors last season, could make a run for a full-time NHL role for the first time since 2015-16 as well.
Gagner will need to make himself known during training camp, then, as it’s evident space is limited on the Oilers’ roster, and they’re keeping their options open for the few spots that do remain. However, a cursory look labels him as the best option for the job, and there’s a level of familiarity between him, the Oilers, and GM Ken Holland that could play to his advantage