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Is Sam Gagner on the Marlies a good idea?

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Vancouver is considering loaning the player to Toronto, but how many veterans is too many with the news the team is adding another defender?

NHL: Anaheim Ducks at Vancouver Canucks Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday the Vancouver Canucks waived forward Sam Gagner. Today he cleared, and with that comes news that Vancouver may try to loan him to a different AHL team than their own affiliate in Utica.

You may recall that last season goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo, while on an NHL contract with the Leafs, was loaned to the Chicago Wolves. The Marlies have received some loans of players from other organizations as well — Cal O’Reilly played for part of one season in Toronto while under contract to the Sabres, for example.

Now, the word is that the Marlies will be the place that takes Gagner.

It’s official:

We know one person who likes the idea:

And that’s something to keep in mind. Gagner has a track record of decent depth scoring in the NHL. He’s just not worth the absurd contract the Canucks gave him in 2017 as he came off a career high 50-point season in Columbus. The Canucks signed him for three years at $3,150,000 per year. This year, the Canucks — it was ever thus — have a roster crunch and had to waive someone not one of their actual young-ish prospects, so they cut Gagner.

Gagner has suffered some injuries,and played okay, but not spectacularly for Vancouver last year, but he really looks like a player who could fit on the Marlies in style of play. In fact, he could likely still play NHL hockey on the right team. He’s had good offensive results the last two years, and he’s not hopeless defensively.

The Leafs could just trade the traditional conditional seventh for him, but that next remaining year of the contract makes that impossible for the team to even consider. A loan to the Marlies from Vancouver leaves the unburiable portion of his cap hit on Vancouver’s books for this season. And he sure seems to be a buyout candidate for them next summer.

In the meantime, even though he’s only ever played in nine AHL games, he would likely hit the ground running and be one of the better wingers on the team. The trouble comes with the so-called veteran rule in the AHL.

The last time the Marlies ended up with a host of former NHLers, we wrote about the rule:

The gist of it is that 13 of your 18 skaters need to be players who haven’t played a lot of professional hockey. Included in the count is NHL, AHL and some European play. The players on the Leafs right now who exceed the cutoff are:

This list was just expanded by this news:

Ryan Sproul is over the limit and is a veteran in the AHL, but he’s also a really good right-shooting defender who made Marlies’ lives miserable when he played in Grand Rapids.

Rich Clune played 47 games last season, so he isn’t a regular, but some of the others are. While the excess on defence might see Vincent LoVerde sit out once in a while, the potential addition of Martin Marincin from the Leafs doesn’t improve this picture. LoVerde played in 67 games last year.

Adam Cracknell will centre one of the top lines on the Marlies, so he should be expected to play most of the time. Chis Mueller should centre the other, with Adam Brooks trying to take their ice time. Colin Greening is a regular on the checking line, so that leaves Josh Jooris as the odd man out some of the time, even without adding in Gagner.

But Gagner should easily outplay both Jooris and Greening as a winger. While his role would be wildly different to Greening’s, it seems like the Marlies might choose goals over grit some nights given the amount of scoring that has left the team this year.

Gagner can fit on the team, and I sure expect Sproul to fit on the team, too. It will just make the roster decisions a bit trickier, but for the right player, those calculations are worth making.


Just to clarify how this works:

  • his cap hit counts for the Canucks, not the Leafs
  • the Canucks have the right to recall him, and if they play him for over nine games or 29 days, he has to clear waivers to be loaned back
  • he’s still under contract to the Canucks for next season
  • this does not count against the Leafs’ SPC count
  • he cannot play on the Leafs
  • no one will ever tell us who is paying what part of his salary