Sports Hockey

Oilers' Sam Gagner dealt to Tampa Bay 0

Robert Tychkowski

Sam Gagner’s tour of duty with the Edmonton Oilers is over.

After seven often difficult seasons with the only NHL team he’s ever known, he was traded twice in 90 minutes Sunday —  from Edmonton to Tampa Bay and from Tampa Bay to Arizona — two days before a no movement trade in his contract kicked in.

The Oilers sent Gagner to the Lightning for 28-year-old right winger Ted Purcell and the Lightning immediately shipped Gagner and BJ Crombeen to the Coyotes for a sixth-round draft pick.

Purcell is a 6-foot-3, 195-pounder who has 75 goals and 153 assists over 401 career games in the NHL.

“It’s been a roller coaster of emotions but I’m very excited to be joining the Coyotes,” said Gagner, whose heart was always with the Oilers.

“I wasn’t expecting to be traded today, but it’s something that happens in sports and you have to be ready for it.

“I would have liked to stay in Edmonton but we didn’t have a lot of success as a team. You have to expect something to happen when the team doesn’t do well.”

Gagner, who’ll be making $4.8 million for the next two years, had 49 points as a rookie and never topped that total in his next six seasons in Edmonton (although he did had 38 in 48 during the lockout season).

He played 67 games last year after missing the start of the season with a broken jaw. He rushed back too soon and had one of his worst seasons as an Oiler — 37 points in 67 games and a whopping minus-29 rating.

With the Oilers attempting to get bigger down the middle (and with Ryan Nugent Hopkins, Boyd Gordon and possibly first round draft pick Leon Draisaitl in place for next year), Gagner simply became expendable.

“Hard to say (why),” he said. “I didn’t have a great year last year. I’m not happy with the way things went. I hold myself to a higher standard than that. It is what it is. It doesn’t work out everywhere all the time.”

Gagner was Edmonton’s first round pick in 2007 (6th overall). He leaves the Oilers after seven seasons (481 games) and 101 goals, 194 assists and 295 points.

He’s still just 24 so there is a lot of upside left in his game, but he couldn’t get any traction in Edmonton.

He’s hoping a new team will jump-start his career.

“They play a hard game, they’re a hard team to play against,” he said. “They have a high compete level and they play the system really well. It’s something I’m excited to join.

“I’m excited to prove some people wrong this year and I feel like I’m going to get a great opportunity to do that in Phoenix. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Purcell was also caught totally flat-footed by the deal.

“It’s a bit of a shock and the phone is blowing up, but other than that it’s all good,” he said. “Steve (Yzerman) left me a voice mail to call him so I figured something was up. Any time you don’t see something coming it’s obviously a bit of a shock.

“Once it digests and sets in, I think it’s going to be a good opportunity for me to play some good minutes with a lot of good young guys, so it’s going to be exciting.”

Purcell isn’t especially physical (never more than 20 PIMs in an NHL season), but he had a career high 65 points in 2011-12 and had 42 last season. He makes $4.5 million for the next two years.

He admits going from Tampa Bay to Edmonton is going to be a culture shock on and off the ice, but it’s something he’s excited about.

“I think it’s going to be exciting to play in a hockey crazy market and get a taste of what it’s like up there,” said Purcell.

“I think it was good for me to start in places LA and Tampa Bay where the media wasn’t so big and the (hockey) markets weren’t so big. It allowed me to find my way and become an established player.

“Now I guess I’m going to see what I’m made of, if I can handle it all. It’s a true test of what kind of character you have.”

So is going from a playoff team to a non-playoff team.

“Every year you want to be in the playoffs, but Edmonton is doing a lot of good things,” he said. “Over the last 30 games of the year they were just about a .500 team. With a couple more pieces they can be right in the mix. They’re going in the right direction, and with the new rink coming it’s an exciting time there.”

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