Acquired in the trade that sent Nicklas Grossmann and the contract of Chris Pronger to the Arizona Coyotes, Sam Gagner has produced a season that can only be called disappointing. He's failed to gain the trust of Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol, and his production (three goals and five assists in 30 games) has been underwhelming at best.
With Gagner in the final year of his contract, the Flyers need to evaluate whether they will receive enough value from him over the next two months to justify keeping him off the trade block. But even if Ron Hextall shops Gagner, would any teams even have interest?
Should the Flyers try to trade him?
Out of all of the potential trade pieces for the Philadelphia Flyers, Sam Gagner's situation is the most cut-and-dry. The former Oilers forward is in the last year of his contract, has been repeatedly scratched by Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol, and was even sent through waivers and down to the minors for an extended period of time in January. Philadelphia has seen the future, and they have determined that it doesn't include Sam Gagner. Therefore, he's an obvious trade candidate.
Gagner is far from a useless player. Prior to this season, he was on a streak of eight consecutive 10+ goal campaigns, and spent the majority of his time in Edmonton skating on one of the team's top two lines. While it doesn't appear that he will ever develop into the high-end scorer that the Oilers thought they were getting with the sixth overall pick in 2007, he could provide an infusion of skill to a team looking to increase their scoring depth for the postseason. Considering the Flyers' apparent low opinion of Gagner, they'd probably give him up for a conditional pick.
Will the Flyers try to trade him? And if so, will they succeed?
Ron Hextall will almost certainly try to trade Sam Gagner. The question is whether there is a viable market for the forward. Sure, he's a rental, so he comes with little risk. And he does have a history of providing legitimate value as a scoring forward. But don't forget that Gagner was waived back in late December, and every team in the NHL had a chance at acquiring him for free. None took the opportunity to do so, which allowed the Flyers to assign Gagner to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
Why would a team give up an asset for Gagner now, after passing on him just two months ago? There are a few reasons that make sense. First, NHL teams are hesitant to take advantage of waivers, both because it forces them to make a corresponding roster move to clear space, and because there seems to be something of a "code" among general managers that keeps them from pouncing on a "free" player.
Second, the team's situation may have changed. Maybe in December, their roster was relatively healthy but is now injury-ravaged. Circumstances change, and incentives are in turn adjusted. Finally, a team may have evaluated the likely free agents and would like to give Gagner something of a "tryout" to determine if he fits their roster moving forward. He clearly isn't wanted on the Flyers, so Hextall will give other teams every chance at picking him up.