2010 NHL Free Agency: Oilers sign Sam Gagner to a two-year, $4.55M deal

samgagnersmiles.jpgBefore the Edmonton Oilers pinned their hopes on the likes of Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle, they looked to players such as 2006 first round pick Sam Gagner. The team re-upped with Gagner today, signing him to a two-year, $4.55 million contract with a $2.275 million annual cap hit according to Nick Kypreos.

Here is a little more about Gagner from the Oilers.

Gagner, 21, appeared in 68 games last season for the Oilers scoring 15 goals and 26 assists for 41 points.

The 5’11”, 191-pound London, Ontario native has three seasons under his belt after having put up 49 points (13G, 36A) in his rookie year, where he was named to the 2008 NHL YoungStars Game in Atlanta. He scored 41 points (16G, 25A) in his sophomore year.

It seems like a pretty good deal for both sides. Gagner gets a nice amount of cash considering the fact that he peaked at 49 points and the free agent market has been terrible (restricted or unrestricted). The contract might benefit the Oilers too, though, if Gagner breaks through and exceeds the value of his contract.

The Oilers are probably a few pieces away from being a true playoff contender, but aside from a Nikolai Khabibulin/goalie meltdown here or there, things are looking up in Edmonton.

Here’s hoping 3-on-3 doesn’t degenerate into a boring ‘game of keep-away’?

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Are coaches going to ruin 3-on-3 overtime?

It’s been the one, big worry since the NHL decided to change from 4-on-4 to 3-on-3 as a way to reduce the number of shootouts.

Via TSN’s Bob McKenzie, here’s a quote from an anonymous coach (talking about 3-on-3 strategy) that won’t exactly quell that worry:

“Really, it’s a game of keep-away, that’s what it is and the longer you can keep it away from the other team, the more likely they’ll break down. So I say let’s slow it down and hold onto that puck for as long as we can.”

Now take that a step further and imagine there’s a team that’s really good at shootouts. If you were coaching that team, might you tell your players to rag the puck for as long as possible to try and get to the skills competition?

Granted, five minutes is a long time to rag the puck. Not sure any team could play “keep-away” that long. Plus, there will always be teams that aren’t very good at the shootout; theoretically, those teams should be more willing to take their chances in 3-on-3.

But just remember that more time and space doesn’t always lead to more goals. Look at international hockey, which is played on a bigger ice surface. Canada won gold in Sochi by beating Latvia, 2-1, the United States, 1-0, and Sweden, 3-0. It was hardly firewagon hockey.

While nobody’s quite ready to suggest that 3-on-3 will actually lead to more shootouts, it will be interesting to see how things evolve, and if there are any unintended consequences.

“I don’t know if anyone’s figured it out completely yet,” Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said Saturday after losing in 3-on-3 overtime to Vancouver.

“The big thing is, you want to control the puck as much as you can. It’s 3-on-3, so there’s lots of room and space out there. You don’t need to give it away. I think it’s smart to just wait, take your time, and wait for a good opportunity.”

Oilers go captain-less, name four alternates instead

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Edmonton’s made a fairly significant shift in its leadership group.

The big news is the Oilers won’t have a captain this season, as Andrew Ference will relinquish the “C” he’s worn for the last two years.

Ference will, however, remain part of the group and wear an “A” as part of a four-man alternate captain collective, one that also includes Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall.

The news of Ference being removed as captain doesn’t come as a huge surprise. The veteran d-man is a well-respected leader, but isn’t expected to be in the lineup every night this season.

The decision to go without a captain, though, is something of a surprise, especially given what new head coach Todd McLellan endured during his final season in San Jose.

The Sharks’ captaincy issue — stripping Joe Thornton, then going with four rotating alternates — was an ongoing problem, something that players, coaches and GM Doug Wilson had to repeatedly address until it blew up in spectacular fashion.

That said, the circumstances in Edmonton are quite different.

It’s believed the club’s intentionally keeping the captaincy vacant, on the assumption that Connor McDavid will evolve into a superstar and, subsequently, the club’s unquestioned leader.

Finally, McLellan noted that with Eberle currently sidelined, a fifth Oiler would be added to the leadership group — veteran forward Matt Hendricks, who will serve as a temporary alternate.