The Edmonton Oilers announced Monday morning that they have signed right-shot forwards Sam Gagner and Brandon Sutter to professional tryout contracts. The moves end ongoing speculation that these moves were coming, with Bob Stauffer first reporting the Oilers’ interest in Sutter while former Oiler Luke Gazdic was first to link Edmonton to Gagner.
Gagner’s history with the club
Gagner, now 34, was originally an Oilers first-round pick, drafted sixth overall in 2006. He played last year with the Winnipeg Jets, posting solid on-ice metrics and decent production while luck deteriorated his overall results. However, his season was ended early after hip issues eventually led him to opt for surgery.
The 16-year vet last played for the Oilers in the 2019–20 season before being traded to Detroit. Beyond being a former Oiler, Gagner is connected to the Oilers through his father, Dave Gagner, and current agent, Judd Moldaver, who both worked at the Wasserman Agency that new CEO of Hockey Ops Jeff Jackson recently left.
Sutter’s NHL career
Sutter, 34 years old, last played for the Vancouver Canucks during the 2020–21 season. Coming in at 6’3″ and 190 lbs, Sutter had been signed by the Canucks for the 2021–22 season. However, he was unable to play due to long COVID symptoms that first arose during the team’s outbreak during the Canadian Division season.
Sutter’s on-ice metrics weren’t strong in his past few seasons in Vancouver, and with COVID-19 and age taking a bite out of his physical ability, it may be tough for the forward to make an impact at 5v5. What the Oilers might be hoping for is to use him as a faceoff specialist and penalty killer, two areas of Sutter’s game that still appeared strong the last time he played on NHL ice.
What’s left for the Oilers
The two PTOs are likely the last two established pros that will be added to the training camp roster, with any further additions likely coming from rookies that show well at rookie camp. With Evan Bouchard’s contract now signed, reports are that 20 players have firm grips on roster spots.
The $1.15M in cap space based on that roster contstruction means one of Raphael Lavoie ($874K), Lane Pederson ($775K), Drake Caggulia ($775K), Sutter (PTO), or Gagner (PTO) will be able to be on the opening night roster. This doesn’t mean it’s NHL or bust for Sutter and Gagner though, as they could be signed to cheap contracts before being waived and sent to the Bakersfield Condors as experienced organizational depth.
With the Oilers likely being done shopping this offseason, there are still some interesting names on the market. Tomas Tatar has long been a solid complimentary winger while Danton Heinen has been very good in depth roles over recent years. There’s also the likes of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Ethan Bear, and Nolan Patrick, who are bonafide NHLers that may be waiting deeper into the season to sign as they deal with their respective health concerns.