Nashville Predators: Sam Gagner, the new second line center?

NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 05: Sam Gagner
NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 05: Sam Gagner /

With the potential loss of captain Mike Fisher along with scoring winger James Neal, the Nashville Predators must find answers in the middle of their lineup.

The Nashville Predators are in search of more skill in their top 6 forwards. The holes left by potentially Mike Fisher and certainly James Neal must be filled. Luckily there are some relatively affordable options on the market that provide quality service like Sam Gagner.

Sam Gagner has always had potential and skill. Drafted 6th overall in the 2007 draft, analysts believed Gagner would be a superstar. Staring in the OHL for the London Knights, Gagner posted 35 goals and 118 points in his draft eligible season. The Oilers drafted him in hopes of stardom.

But it did not pan out for Gagner in Edmonton. He never lived up to first line potential. He was posting modest 40 point totals in his first 5 seasons. He was jettisoned to the Arizona Coyotes and then Philadelphia Flyers before enjoying his best season as a professional in the 2016/17 campaign with the Columbus Blue Jackets. He posted 18 goals and 32 assists for a career best 50 points.

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Now a free agent, Gagner is most likely going to find a new home, and that new home should be in Nashville with the Predators.


While Gagner may not be a first line center, he has been very consistent as a professional. He is posting an average of 40 points a season. This would be a logical replacement for Mike Fisher‘s 40 point average totals.

Secondly his possession and goal numbers over the past few seasons have been very solid. For this, we use stats from Hockey Analysis.


For the past three seasons, Gagner has been a positive possession player who can create offense. His CF% REL TM, which has been good, essential means that when Gagner is on the ice, he gives his teammates who are on the ice with him a positive boost in terms of possessing the puck. This happening even on a horrible Coyotes team, and a pretty bad Flyers team. Gagner knows how to handle the puck and create chances for his teammates.

Last season when playing with capable line mates, he posted excellent numbers. His SF% RELTM means that he is creating an extra 5.9% shots for his teammates when on the ice. And his GF% of 59.1% is an excellent indicator of him being on the ice for more goals than not. So this is the encouraging sign for Nashville Predators. Gagner would slot with capable wingers, if they signed him, and this should translate to goals.

The numbers outlined in bold are his only negatives. But as a whole Gagner in recent years as been very capable of creating possession, possession leading to shots, shots leading to goals. This is what the Nashville Predators need.

Gagner v 2nd Line Center Average

Secondly we must see how Gagner stacks up against other second line centers in the league? For that, we check out the Hero charts from Own the Puck.

PlayerIce TimeGoalsAssistsShot GenerationShot Supression
Sam Gagner54675
2nd line center75665

Scale 0-10; Mean = 5; Standard Deviation = 2

Again we can draw some positive conclusions about his play. First off Gagner has not been receiving 2nd line minutes, yet still generating offense at a 2nd line rate. He is generating shots above the average of a second line center. He averages what second line centers should in terms of assists and shots suppressed. The only thing he is lower in his goals for, but this could be made up for with more ice time.

In fact, if Gagner receives 2nd line minutes over the course of a season, I would expect all of these numbers to rise.

Gagner vs Jarnkrok

The last step when evaluating a potential fit in Gagner is to compare him to the player in the position now, Calle Jarnkrok. Again, referencing Hero Charts from Own The Puck.

PlayerIce TimeGoalsAssistsShot GenerationShot Supression
Sam Gagner54675
Call Jarnkrok55337

As we find, Gagner is much better than Calle at creating offense. The numbers show us Gagner is a playmaker. Where Calle excels at suppressing shots on the defensive end.

But this chart shows exactly why Gagner should be the Predators target. The second line center must be able to create plays for his wingers. In the Nashville Predators case that most likely means Kevin Fiala, Pontus Aberg, Craig Smith, or Colin Wilson. Someone has to be able to possess the puck, and help create for them. Gagner does this better than Calle.


By adding Gagner, Calle Jarnkrok can slide down in the lineup to the 3C position and be set up for more success. Jarnkrok just does not drive offense as well as Gagner does. This is what is required out of a second line center. On the third line, Calle can focus his game more around his defensive playmaking, his strength. This will make the Nashville Predators stronger up the middle of the ice.

Gagner should also prove to come at a reasonable price. I would say a 3 year deal between $2-3 million is accurate and fair.

This will allow David Poile to go out and add another piece to his arsenal if he wants too.

Next: An Overview of the 2017 Entry Draft

Sam Gagner would be an excellent addition for the Nashville Predators.