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Rumor Roundup: Oilers’ Gagner headed to Kings?

The Kings scoring problems explains the team’s interest in Sam Gagner and why they’re also linked in trade rumors to former Kings forwards Mike Cammalleri and Matt Moulson. It’s also believed they are looking at New York Islanders winger Thomas Vanek.

In the days leading up to the Olympic roster freeze, there was growing anticipation Edmonton Oilers center Sam Gagner would be dealt to Los Angeles. TSN’s Bob McKenzie and Pierre LeBrun reported of ongoing negotiations between the two clubs, with Kings left winger Kyle Clifford mentioned as part of the potential return.

The deal failed to materialize, as Oilers management reportedly weren’t willing to absorb part of Gagner’s contract, worth $4.8 million per season. The cap-strapped Kings would have to shed more salary than Clifford’s $1.1 million to make the dollars fit. Doing so risks further weakening their depth.

The Oilers also feel they can get a better return at the trade deadline or in June leading up to NHL draft. Considering the centerpiece of the rumored return from the Kings was a checking-line winger, it’s not surprising the Oilers opted to wait for better offers. They do need skilled checkers, but should get more for a valuable asset like Gagner.

The Oilers are among the few teams that have no chance of making the playoffs, so they don’t have to make any hasty moves. Gagner has a no-movement clause effective only for 2014-15, giving them time to shop around for better deals.

It remains to be seen if Kings GM Dean Lombardi revisits his rumored interest in Gagner following the Olympic break or looks elsewhere for a top-six forward. Since the Christmas break, his struggling Kings have won only six of 21 games. They’ve slid down the standings and are only four points from falling out of the playoff picture.

While the Kings rank among the NHL’s best defensive teams, their anaemic scoring punch is behind their recent decline. They aren’t having difficulty generating shots, sitting ninth overall at 31.1 per game, but they aren’t burying their chances. They’ve scored the second-fewest goals per game (2.25), while their power play (13.6 percent) is the league’s second-worst.

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That explains Lombardi’s supposed interest in Gagner and why his club is linked in trade rumors to former Kings forwards Mike Cammalleri and Matt Moulson. It’s also believed Lombardi is looking at New York Islanders winger Thomas Vanek.

Lombardi recently demoted center Colin Fraser, freeing up some much-needed cap space. As with Gagner, however, Lombardi will have to convince the Flames or Islanders to pick up half of the remaining salaries of Cammalleri ($7 million) or Vanek ($6.4 million) to make the deal work. Moulson ($3.1 million) would be more affordable dollar-wise, but the Sabres are believed to be seeking a first-round pick and either a top prospect or a good young player in return.

Lombardi faces a tough choice. He can either part with valuable young assets for a quick-fix scorer or stand pat and hope his current scorers regain their touch down the stretch, as they did in 2012 when they won the Stanley Cup.

Rumor Roundup appears weekdays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).

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