Edmonton Oilers v Philadelphia Flyers

Oilers Sam Gagner escapes serious injury

It could have been worse for Oilers forward Sam Gagner. It certainly looked bad at the time. Gagner crashed into the end boards during the second period of the Oilers’ 2-1 victory over the Flames on Saturday night. He lay sprawling on the ice in the aftermath of the hit—it could have been any number of ailments from the dangerous collision that were the problem. Was it his head that hit the end boards?  Was it an ankle or upper body injury when he collided awkwardly?  Luckily for the Oilers and Gagner, it looked much worse than it actually was.

The Edmonton Journal had the story and followed up with the Oilers’ coaching staff:

“At the time, it looked like Gagner may have also hit his head on the boards because he was down for a couple of minutes as trainer T.D. Forss came out to see him, but the Oilers dismissed that.

“He’s out day-to-day. ‘Just precautionary,’ said Oilers head coach Tom Renney, when asked if Gagner, who played 2-1/2 minutes in the second period, could have returned as the Oilers beat the Flames 2-1. He wasn’t scheduled to play Sunday in Calgary anyway.”

Later we found out that he had actually injured his ankle blocking a shot earlier in the game.

Since the same two teams are playing tonight, the Oilers coaching staff had already decided that Gagner would be a healthy scratch while they looked at other players. The last thing a player needs in the preseason is a game against a bitter rival when he’s not quite right. It’s surely a welcomed rest for a player who isn’t fighting for a spot on the team.

The sixth overall pick in the 2007 is in the final year of the two-year deal he signed with the Oilers in 2010. Like any other pending restricted free agent, he wants to put his best foot forward from the start of the season as he looks to continue to fulfill the potential he showed with the London Knights in his draft year. At 22 years old, Gagner still has plenty of room to develop on a team that is already stocked with young forwards. He’s scored 40+ points in each of his first four season in the league—but many around the team think Gagner is capable of more than the 15 goals and 27 assists he put up last season.

Staying healthy would be a step in the right direction. He’s missed 14 games in each of the last two seasons; a preseason injury wouldn’t be the start he’s looking for this year. With players like Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ales Hemsky, and possibly Ryan Nugent-Hopkins around nowadays, the Oilers aren’t depending on him to carry the team offensively this season. Still, if they want to be more successful in the standings, the scoring depth that Gagner could provide would go a long way towards helping the Oilers climb out of the basement.

Brandon Sutter didn’t have the greatest preseason

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When Brandon Sutter was acquired by the Vancouver Canucks, GM Jim Benning called the 26-year-old a “foundation piece for our group going forward.”

Sutter was quickly signed to a five-year extension worth almost $22 million, more evidence of how highly management thought of the player.

Fast forward to yesterday, when Benning was asked the following question:

“What does it say that you made the trade for Sutter, you called him a ‘foundation’ player, and it took him until the final night of the preseason to find a spot (with the Sedins) on the wing, which isn’t his natural position?”

Here was Benning’s response:

“Well, [head coach Willie Desjardins] wants to try that out, he thinks that’s going to be a good fit. At various times, the Sedins played with wingers with speed, with [Ryan Kesler], who could get in on the forecheck and had a good shot. Sutter brings some of those qualities, too.”

While all that may be true, Sutter was not signed to play the wing; he was brought in to play center, specifically on the second line. He finished the preseason with zero points in five games. And as mentioned, he’ll start the season on the wing, not his natural position.

Meanwhile, youngsters Bo Horvat, 20, and Jared McCann, 19, had outstanding camps and are expected to start the regular season (tonight in Calgary) centering the second and third lines, respectively.

Though Sutter did finish the preseason with 12 shots on goal, up there with the most on the Canucks, it’s fair to say he did not look like a “foundation” player.

“I haven’t seen him play his best,” Desjardins said last week. “I see a guy who’s big and a good skater and who understands the game real well, but just hasn’t got that involved.”

Now, we are only talking about the preseason here. New players often take time to get comfortable. Perhaps playing with the Sedins can provide Sutter with some confidence.

“I know he’ll be there and I totally believe that,” said Desjardins.

But it hasn’t been the best start, and if it wasn’t for the encouraging play of the youngsters, it would be a far bigger story in Vancouver.

Related: Canucks roll the dice on rookies, waive Vey and Corrado

Detroit waives Cleary

Daniel Cleary

Dan Cleary‘s time as a Red Wing could soon be over.

Detroit placed the veteran forward on waivers Wednesday afternoon, per TSN. The move comes after Cleary signed a one-year, one-way deal worth $950,000 just weeks before training camp, then proceeded to play in four of Detroit’s exhibition contests, scoring two points.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens now.

At 36, Cleary doesn’t have much left in the tank and is coming off a year in which he played just 17 games. But as we noted back in the summer, this seems to all be part of a larger plan.

From the Free Press:

A situation that bears the handprint of former coach Mike Babcock has put the Wings in the position of being honor-bound to keep Cleary, 36, aboard, even as he is coming off a season that saw him play just 17 games, producing two points.

This debacle began two years ago. The Wings had offered Cleary a three-year, $6.25-million contract before he became unrestricted July 1. He declined. The Wings then signed Stephen Weiss and Daniel Alfredsson, leaving little space under the salary cap. Then Cleary didn’t sign with anyone. September rolled around. The Flyers offered Cleary a three-year deal for $8.25 million, but Cleary then decided he wanted to stay in Detroit.

He ended up flying to Traverse City, where the Wings already had begun training camp. He met in a hangar with Holland and Babcock. Holland pointed to a near maxed-out budget. Babcock pushed hard for Cleary to be signed. What resulted was a one-year, $1.75-million deal with the understanding the Wings would take into consideration what Cleary left on the Flyers table.

After playing out that $1.75 million deal, Cleary re-signed in Detroit last summer to a one-year, $1.5 million pact — so, essentially, the Wings are now in final year of an unspoken three-year agreement that’s (sorta) aimed at repaying what got left on the table in Philly.

Got all that?

If Cleary gets through waivers, the Wings could send him to AHL Grand Rapids. Since he signed a one-way deal, he’d get his money regardless.

There’s also the option of Babcock and the Leafs claiming Cleary off waivers — a scenario that, as unlikely as it sounds, has already made the rounds on social media.