By Allan Muir
John Shannon of Sportsnet is reporting that the Edmonton Oilers and free agent forward Sam Gagner have agreed to a new three-year, $14.4 million deal.
The two sides had been scheduled for salary arbitration this morning after months of failed negotiations.
No surprise that the final figure falls just about in the middle of what each side was proposing. The Oilers were offering Gagner $3.5 million per year, while he was looking for $5.5 million. The average annual value of the new deal is $4.8 million.
This looks like an agreement that both sides can live with.
Gagner cashes in on a career season that saw him score 38 points in 48 games. The new contract gives him the most security he's had since his entry-level deal and a paycheck that recognizes him as a player who has matured into a legitimate top-six forward--albeit one with some limitations.
The Oilers win with a deal that marries them to Gagner for a relatively short term, and that's a good thing in this case. Gagner is a gifted offensive player, but his defensive game hasn't developed the way the Oilers had hoped. Could he take that next step under the guidance of new coach Dallas Eakins? Possibly. You only have to look at the magic that Eakins performed on Nazem Kadri when the two worked together with the AHL Toronto Marlies to know that the coach has a gift for molding offensively-minded youngsters into more complete players. If things go as planned, both sides will happily agree to a much larger deal three years down the road. But if it doesn't work out, then Gagner probably doesn't bring enough to the table to be part of the team's plans as it eventually moves into Cup contention. The duration of the deal means that he won't become an albatross and can be moved if that's the way the Oil decides to go. The deal has a no-movement clause, but according to Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos, it only applies to year two of the deal. That means Gagner could be in play as soon as this year's trade deadline if his game isn't where the team wants it to be.