For years, the Blackhawks have been tied to forward Sam Gagner in trade rumors.
Could he actually come to Chicago this time, though?
Gagner, who turns 28 in August, has intrigued Blackhawks fans for a long time. And the obvious tie to the Hawks has always been his time with the London Knights.
In 2006-07, Gagner put up 35 goals and 83 assists in 53 games for London. That same season, Patrick Kane led the Knights with 62 goals and 82 assists in 58 games. In the summer of 2007, Kane was the first overall pick in the NHL Draft; Gagner was selected sixth by Edmonton.
After making the jump directly from London to the NHL (like Kane), Gagner had at least 13 goals and 41 points in each of his first five NHL seasons. The most notable night of his career came against Kane and the Hawks on Feb. 2, 2012 when he lit up Chicago for four goals and four assists.
He signed a one-year bridge deal with a $3.2M cap hit for the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season and lit up the league for 38 points in 48 games. Edmonton rewarded him with a three-year, $14.4M deal.
Edmonton traded him to Tampa (who traded him to Arizona) a year later. Twelve months later he was dealt again, this time heading to Philadelphia in the deal that sent Chris Pronger’s cap hit (note: not cap circumvention in the eyes of the NHL) to Arizona. Gagner’s time in Philly was a disaster, with him ultimately landing in the AHL at the end of the 2015-16 season.
In what should be his prime, Gagner found himself taking a pay cut from $4.8M to $650k on a one-year deal with the Blue Jackets for the 2016-17 season.
Gagner responded with the best season of his career, putting up 18 goals and 50 points (both career highs). The right-handed shot had 26 points (eight goals, 18 assists) on the power play for Columbus last year and averaged 13:42 per night. Gagner also won 47.5 percent of his faceoffs (425 total).
In his “30 Thoughts” column this week, Elliotte Friedman pointed out that “Gagner makes a lot of sense as a right-handed power play option to replace Artemi Panarin in Chicago. He was dynamite with Columbus in that role. It is believed Vancouver also has interest in his services.”
Scott Power of The Athletic – Chicago followed that nugget with a report that the Blackhawks and Gagner have shown “mutual interest.”
Which makes sense. Gagner, who is an unrestricted free agent, saw his career unwind as much because of his cap hit as anything; he’s consistently been a 40-50 point player his entire career with the one exception being the nightmare season with the Flyers. And the Blackhawks need depth at center; if Marcus Kruger is still headed out the door (which most expectations are still that he is), the Hawks would ideally need someone to play the third line center role with Tanner Kero filling in for Kruger on the fourth line and penalty kill.
So after all these years of flirting, could the Hawks and Gagner finally get together? We’ll see.