The Edmonton Oilers have traded center Sam Gagner to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for winger Teddy Purcell.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: After being dogged by years of trade speculation, Gagner has finally been traded, though to a team no one predicted he’d be dealt to. There was also a rumor following the deal that the Lighting would then put Gagner on waivers for the purpose of buying him out, though it has since been denied by the club. Not sure why the Bolts would bother doing that, as Gagner’s contract ($4.8 million cap hit) is almost similar to Purcell’s annual $4.5 million cap hit.
Some might question why the Lightning, who are already well-stocked at center (Steven Stamkos, Valtteri Filppula, Calder nominee Tyler Johnson), but Gagner can also play on the wing. Perhaps the Bolts believe Gagner, who is only 24 and with five-straight 40-plus point seasons on his resume, still has room to grow, whereas Purcell at 28 may have already peaked.
As for the Oilers, this seems to be about shaking things up a bit, as Gagner didn’t appear to be blossoming as they hoped under their system. Perhaps adding a little veteran experience and size from outside the organization will provide that extra jam on the wing they were seeking on the second line, though they now have to find a good second-line center.
**UPDATE** TSN reports the Lightning subsequently flipped Gagner along with BJ Crombeen to the Arizona Coyotes for a sixth-round 2015 draft pick. So this wound up being a straight salary dump for the Lightning, giving them 19 players under contract with over $9.5 million in cap space. They appear to be making room for perhaps a more significant addition. As for the Coyotes, they appear for now to have filled the hole at center brought about by their buyout of Mike Ribeiro. Still, the opinion out of Edmonton where Gagner played his entire career to date is he’s better off as a winger than a center. We’ll find out how well he responds to playing for a new team and a new system.