Oilers' Gagner hopes Austrian stayover a short one
DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency
EDMONTON - Sam Gagner is heading off to Europe, but is hoping it's a short stay.
The Edmonton Oilers centre has signed with Klagenfurter AC of the Austrian Erste Bank Ice Hockey League.
Gagner will leave North America in the next couple of days and expects to be in Klagenfurt, Austria by Thursday, waiting on the paperwork to go through.
“I’ve been looking at a couple of different leagues for the last little bit and it just got to the point where I felt like I wanted to play games and be ready if there was a conclusion to the lockout,” said Gagner. “I felt like this was a good opportunity for me. The Austrian deal came about pretty quickly, Tyler Myers signed a couple of days earlier and I’ve kind of been in touch with him and in touch for people in Klagenfurt.
“It’s a great opportunity to go and play some games. It’s a great league with great fans and I’m excited about it.”
Gagner is getting set to leave as the NHL presented an offer to their players association, offering a 50-50 split of revenues in the hopes of preserving an 82-games schedule and ending the lockout.
“This offer seems to be a little bit more in the direction that we’re looking for,” Gagner said. “I don’t think I can comment too much on it until I know fully what’s happening.
“We’re going to have some dialog on it and that’s exciting for us. I think there hasn’t been a proposal in a while, so the fact that there’s a proposal on the table is exciting. Hopefully it sets us in a positive direction.”
Gagner didn’t have a drop-dead date when he would begin looking at other options if the lockout wasn't resolved.
The London, Ont., native signed a one-year $3.2-million extension with the Oilers this off-season.
He’s the first Canadian-born and sixth member of the Oilers to head overseas. American-born defenceman Corey Potter is also in the Austrian league, playing for the Vienna Capitals.
“I don’t think there should be any hesitation about going over,” Gagner said. “It’s all about personal preference and as long as you’re involved and you make sure that you know what’s going on at home and stay educated on the process, I think it’s a good thing for some guys to go over and get some game experience and to be ready once the season starts.”