by Lisa McRitchie on 02/07/12 at 01:15 PM ET
The Edmonton Oilers have received plenty of league wide attention for the past few years, but it was never for a good or positive reason. But, that’s what 2 consecutive last place finishes will do.
Slowly, things have been changing. Monday’s game in the “centre of the universe” also known as Tornonto Ontario drew a media storm to not only the game, but also the morning skate. After all, these were the same Oilers who had been riding a winning streak and who featured a player who had scored more points in a single game than many players score in a month.
It was Ryan Kennedy of the Hockey News that first tweeted about Oilers’ coach Tom Renney being struck with a puck during the morning skate. When the local media is paying close attention to even the morning skate of the visiting team, you know that their interest in the team is piqued.
Most attention did focus on Oilers’ recent recent hot streak scoring centre Sam Gagner who at the age of 22 is already playing in his fifth NHL season and is still the centre of much trade talk. Trading Sam Gagner is either the best or worst thing the team could do at this point, once again depending on who you talk to.
Gagner’s future with the team is still not certain, not just whether or not he will be with the Oilers, but whether or not he will play centre or wing. After his eight point game against the Chicago Blackhawks Thursday night, Gagner has certainly caught everyone’s attention but could this just be another flash in the pan.
With Gagner’s 8 point night, he tied former Oilers Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffey, something that not many NHL players can claim. Gagner went on to score another 3 points Saturday night against the Detroit Red Wings and with the combined 11 points on 11 consecutive goals has broken another Oilers record. The previous franchise record was of course held by Wayne Gretzky who had 10 points on 10 consecutive goals, but he did accomplish that feat twice.
A total of 12 points (6 goals and 6 assists) during the week of January 29th Gagner earned the NHL’s first star of the week. This honour has not been held by an Oilers player for a very long time and so at least the Oilers, this is an even bigger deal than it might otherwise be.
Right now, Gagner’s value is at an all time high and several GMs would be interested in him. If trading Gagner could acquire the top 4 defenceman the Oilers need, Steve Tambellini would be foolish not to entertain the offer. After all, who knows when and for how long Gagner’s hot hands may cool down. Then again, they may not. If Gagner continues to score on even a slightly lesser pace, Tambellini could be the foolish GM who let his talent go and missed out on what could have been.
Gagner is an RFA this summer, and if he buys into the long range plan, may accept a reasonable deal $3-3.5M for the next 3-5 years. Then again, he may be looking for more. If Gagner is looking for a dollar figure that would make it difficult to keep players such as Eberle, Hall and Ryan-Nugent Hopkins, Tambellini will need to take this into account as well.
The most likely scenario is that Gagner remains an Oiler after the NHL trade deadline and re-signs with the team during the off season for at the very least one year. Yes, this most likely means that Hemsky is on the move. Certainly interest in Hemsky has cooled, but looking at the talent in the UFA pool this off season, Hemsky could be a bargain to any team if he remains healthy and gets to play with a sniper or two. After all, the concerns with Hemsky centre around his health and not his talent.
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Lisa McRitchie is a fairly new writer, online at least, but makes up for inexperience with passion for the game of hockey and memories of Mrs. Leskiw’s English AP class; who knew they would pay off one day.
Oil Patch focuses on the Edmonton Oilers, the Edmonton Oil Kings, The Oklahoma City Barons and Team Canada Hockey with game coverage, news updates, speculation and interviews.
Although the Oilers have had a difficult past decade… or three, here at Oil Patch, the future looks bright.
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