Sam Gagner traded to Tampa Bay, then Arizona
When the Edmonton Oilers announced the selection of center Leon Draisaitl with the No. 3 overall pick in this past weekend’s NHL Entry Draft, the writing was on the wall for Sam Gagner. And today, he was dealt to the Tampa Bay Lightning, in exchange for right wing Teddy Purcell.
Gagner, 24, was the sixth overall selection in the 2007 NHL Draft, but he never lived up to that lofty draft status, despite early signs that he would. His rookie season is still his best to date, when he posted 13 goals and 49 total points in 79 games during the 2007-08 campaign. In six NHL seasons since then, Gagner never eclipsed the 49-point mark, and never became the top-six center Edmonton expected him to be. He became expendable with the selection of Draisaitl (who also offers more size and the kind of physical presence Gagner never did), and was finally sent packing to the Lightning.
Still, not all is lost for Gagner. He goes to a very good Tampa Bay team that made the playoffs last year, and has the chance to stick as a top-nine forward. He’s still only 24 years old, and may not have reached his full potential yet. A change of scenery, a winning locker room, and not being burdened with as much responsibility as he was in Edmonton as a high draft pick (and as player who may have been forced into action too soon), may allow Gagner to flourish.
Purcell fits the mold of what the Oilers are looking for. He’s a bigger forward at 6’3″, 203 lbs, a veteran presence at 28 years of age, and he’s coming from a playoff team in Tampa Bay. He’ll be counted on to mentor Edmonton’s slew of young forwards, and to help change the culture of losing that’s pervaded the Oilers team for the better part of the last decade. It’s not all about the intangibles either- Purcell picked up 42 points this past year (a total hindered by the fact that he was missing his linemate, All-Star goal-scorer Steven Stamkos, for much of the season), and racked up 51 points (17 goals, 34 assists) in 2010-11, and a career-high 65 points (24 goals, 41 assists) in 2011-12.
UPDATE: Gagner was traded again, as the Lightning shipped him, along with forward B.J. Crombeen, to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for a sixth-round draft pick in 2015.