3 potential landing spots for Sam Gagner


Sam Gagner is one of the best free agents still looking for a new home for the coming season. In 81 games in 2021-22 with the Detroit Red Wings, he had 13 goals and 31 points. While he hasn’t been dominant, he can still provide a decent offense in a bottom-six role and should be able to earn an NHL contract this season. Here are three teams that I consider potential landing spots.

Edmonton Oilers

A reunion between Gagner and the Edmonton Oilers is definitely a possibility. Kurt Leavins of the Edmonton Journal recently reported that the Oilers had spoken with the veteran forward, so maybe something could come out of this (from ‘Could the 3rd time be a charm for the Edmonton Oilers and Sam Gagner: 9 Things, ‘ Edmonton newspaper, 8/13/22). General Manager (GM) Ken Holland said he hoped to bring another depth before the start of the season, and Winning fits that description perfectly.

Sam Gagner during one of his stints with the Edmonton Oilers (THW Archives)

Looking at Edmonton’s roster, it’s fair to assume Gagner would be competing for a spot in their final six. This is especially true given that the team have received criticism over the years for their lack of centering depth past Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. So bringing in another NHL-caliber option like Gagner would be a good idea, especially if he can continue to be a strong secondary scorer in 2022-23.

Free agency is crazy. Like we said before, Sam Gagner is coming off his best offensive season in 4 years, has scored 13 goals (none on PP) and 29 of 31 pts at even strength in Detroit, and he’s out of contract. If he returns to Edm, good news. But someone should sign it

Financially, the Oilers are a bit stuck and they also need to re-sign Restricted Free Agent (RFA) Ryan McLeod, so they might have to take a salary cut if they want to bring Gagner back in a one-way deal. Potential trade candidates for this to happen include Warren Foegele (cap hit $2.75m) and Tyson Barrie (cap hit $4.5m). Ultimately, it might be worth it if it means adding Gagner to their attacking squad.

Toronto Maple Leafs

THW writer Shane Seney recently brought up the fact that the Toronto Maple Leafs should press Gagner. I agree with this opinion because the Maple Leafs could also use another depth before the start of the season. Winning would be a good replacement for Jason Spezza, given his immense NHL experience. Plus, after the team also lost Ondrej Kase to free agency, it wouldn’t hurt to have Win as a potential right-wing option as well.

Related: 3 Potential Landing Spots For Tyler Motte

Winning would battle for a spot in Toronto’s last six again. The 33-year-old has the potential to compete for the third-row center position with David Kampf, but, at worst, he would be an upgrade from recently signed Adam Gaudette for their fourth-row center spot. As the Maple Leafs look to push for the Stanley Cup, it wouldn’t hurt for them to add Win for some insurance.

Even if Gagner is open to a league minimum contract, the Maple Leafs are expected to withdraw their salary. They are currently over the cap and need to re-sign RFA Rasmus Sandin. As a result, players like Alex Kerfoot ($3.5 million touched) and Justin Holl ($2 million) were considered potential business candidates. Trading at least one of them would provide the organization with more than enough headroom to re-sign Sandin and bring in Gagner. We’ll see if that’s something GM Kyle Dubas is willing to explore.

Detroit Red Wings

I wouldn’t rule out Gagner returning to the Red Wings in 2022-23. The London, Ont., native was a perfect fit for Detroit and proved to be an outstanding leader during their rebuild, so it would be wise for general manager Steve Yzerman to consider bringing Gagner back.

Sam Winning Detroit Red Wings
Sam Gagner, Detroit Red Wings (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

It’s always wise to rebuild the teams to have veterans to mentor their hopefuls and young players. Gagner, who has 967 games of NHL experience, fits that description and has already done well in that role as a Red Wing. He would also provide Detroit with a better secondary score, as his 31 points in 81 games effectively show and would be another option for their second power play unit.

Unlike the two teams above, the Red Wings would have no problem signing Gagner to a league minimum contract for the season. Even after their summer of spending, they still have over $9 million of cap space left and only need to re-sign one RFA, Filip Zadina. Considering Gagner was highly respected in their locker room, Yzerman should really consider bringing the grizzled veteran back for one final year.

We’ll have to wait and see if Gagner ends up on one of those teams for the 2022-23 season. With the Oilers seemingly in communication with the veteran, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him end up there. However, that also doesn’t mean we should rule out the Maple Leafs and Red Wings.

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