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Oilers Sign Gagner

The Oilers and Sam Gagner have reached an agreement on a two year deal worth an average of $2.275 M. The first thought in my head when I heard of the signing was “finally”. Well actually it was “what the hell took so damn long”. September is nearly here and the Oilers and yet there were still contracts to be hammered out with both Gagner and Cogliano. Crossing off “Contract with Sam Gagner” now leaves a new contract with Cogliano alone at the top of Steve Tambellini’s to do list. Trade Souray should be up there too but I would bet that it’s on the back burner right now when compared to getting these deals finished.

The biggest hurdle with the Gagner and Cogliano deals is the term; Tambellini said as much in an interview he did on Oilers Lunch on Wednesday. The players are looking for longer terms and the team is looking to keep the term shorter, I would assume to reduce the risk of signing a deal that looks ugly a couple of years from now. Gagner and Cogliano are both young and there seems to be a good upside to both but the team still hasn’t figured out what type of pros these guys are going to be.

Look at Gagner; the case could easily be made that Gagner had his best season as a pro last season even though he still came up eight points shy of his career high point total of 49 (without injuries he’s probably really close to that high) but is he going to continue to improve becoming a 60-65 point player or will he continue to be a 45-50 point guy. There is a lot of variance in the contracts that players in that range get and with other young players who will be coming off entry level deals in three years from now the Oilers simply can’t afford to be tied down with a bunch of players getting paid millions more than they’re worth.

Cogliano is even harder to figure out. After back-to-back 18 goal campaigns to begin his career, he dropped off the map and scored only 10 goals last season. Cogliano’s 09/10 season was without a doubt the worst of his career but I certainly don’t think he was used in a role last season that gave him much of a chance to succeed. Gagner and Brule – players Cogliano is going to be compared against on the Oilers roster – both got more premium assignments than Cogliano did and their numbers reflect that. Did Cogliano’s play not warrant better ice time or did he just draw the short straw and becoming the odd man out most nights? I would guess it was a case of drawing the short straw, a situation that could be made even worse with the arrival of talented young stars that the club will give every opportunity to succeed, likely at the expense of Cogliano if previous experience tells us anything.

But it isn’t just the uncertainty of what Gagner and Cogliano will be that forcing the Oilers to try and secure shorter term deals, the expiration dates on some entry level deals played a pretty significant role as well. If Gagner’s deal were a three year deal then his contract would have been up the same summer as Jordan Eberle and potentially Taylor Hall and Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson too. Not exactly an ideal situation for the club to be in. If a fourth year was added to the deal it would have taken Gagner right to free agency which the team would have wanted even less I would imagine. The uncertainty with what type of player Gagner will become (in Cogliano’s case add in where he fits on the team) takes away long term deals of five plus years so the options on terms were almost non-existent; something I doubt the guys were happy to hear.

In the end Tambellini got a good deal on Gagner. The dollar amount is more than reasonable – Gagner can certainly outperform a $2.275 M deal – and the term of the deal won’t tie the clubs hands in a few years. The deal Brule signed earlier this summer has the exact same feel to it, good term and good value. If Tambellini can get Cogliano’s signature on a contract of the same ilk it will be some excellent work with his marquee restricted free agents.

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