4:02 p.m.: Edmonton has made the contract official, issuing an announcement via Twitter/X Tuesday afternoon.
This essentially amounts to a call-up in place of depth winger Adam Erne, who the Oilers placed on waivers earlier today. Gagner attended Edmonton’s training camp on a PTO but was not initially signed to an NHL contract, instead signing an AHL contract with the Oilers’ affiliate in Bakersfield while he completed his recovery from hip surgery undergone in March. As such, this contract will not be registered with the league until tomorrow. The Oilers have $429,766 in current cap space, per CapFriendly, and will need to assign Erne to the minors to clear the space for Gagner’s contract.
The 34-year-old, once a sixth-overall pick by the Oilers in 2007, looked no worse for wear in three contests with AHL Bakersfield over the last week. The Condors won by at least three goals in every game in which Gagner played, and he tallied two multi-point efforts en route to a goal, four assists and a +4 rating.
Gagner is likely to make his 2023-24 Oilers debut on Thursday against Dallas, playing on an undermanned fourth line with Derek Ryan as the team ices 11 forwards and seven defensemen while Mattias Janmark is on the shelf with a shoulder injury. Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft told media today that Janmark’s timeline is day-to-day after he missed last Sunday’s Heritage Classic (via Daniel Nugent-Bowman of The Athletic).
That will kick off Gagner’s third stint with the Oilers in his 16-season, 1,015-game NHL career. His first lasted seven seasons and 481 games from draft day in 2007 until the 2014 offseason, when the Oilers traded Gagner to the Lightning for winger Teddy Purcell. He would never play a game for the Lightning, however, as they flipped him to the Coyotes (along with enforcer B.J. Crombeen) in exchange for a sixth-round pick the same day.
Gagner would then bounce around the NHL, playing for four teams (the Coyotes, Flyers, Blue Jackets, and Canucks) in the next four seasons. His point output varied to just 16 in 53 games with the Flyers in 2015-16, earning him a brief demotion to the AHL, to a career-high 50 in 81 games the following season with Columbus.
In 2018-19, his second season with the Canucks, Gagner was again demoted to the AHL to begin the season, spending most of the campaign outside the organization on loan to the AHL’s Toronto Marlies. That changed on February 16, 2019, when the Canucks traded him back to the Oilers in exchange for forward Ryan Spooner. Gagner’s second stint with Edmonton helped re-establish his NHL career, as he remained on the NHL roster for the remainder of the season and registered ten points in 25 games.
His time in Alberta would be short-lived this time around, however. Just a few days after the one-year anniversary of his re-acquisition, the Oilers shipped out Gagner at the trade deadline to the Red Wings in a deal for forward Andreas Athanasiou. Gagner would spend the following two seasons after the COVID pause in the Motor City, providing solid depth production and a needed veteran presence on a struggling team. He signed as a free agent with the Jets for the 2022-23 campaign, where he scored eight goals and added six assists for 14 points in 48 games before hip surgery shut down his season.
Now fully recovered, he’ll look to once again bring a solid bottom-six game to Edmonton. He may not have the offensive ceiling of the player who once notched eight points in a game for Edmonton in the early 2010s, but he has a well-rounded offensive skill set that helps drive play further down on the depth chart. He’s posted positive relative possession numbers over the past three seasons with the Red Wings and Jets and should be an upgrade over Erne, who was without a point in six games and had posted a staggering relative Corsi share of -10.7% at even strength.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports.