Detroit Red Wings re-up Sam Gagner for one year; veteran fits into rebuild

Detroit Free Press

Helene St. James
 
| Detroit Free Press

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He’s the type of veteran that appeals to a rebuilding team: Great character, inexpensive, won’t complain if he’s scratched from the lineup.

Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman has re-upped Sam Gagner for one-year, signing him to a one-way, $850,000 extension. Gagner joined the Wings at last season’s trade deadline, basically an add-on in the trade that sent Andreas Athanasiou to the Edmonton Oilers for second-round picks in 2020 and 2021.

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Gagner, 31, appeared in six games in a Wings uniform before the NHL paused the season on March 12 because of COVID-19, impressing upon general manager Steve Yzerman that he can still contribute.

“I can bring some leadership and veteran experience,” Gagner said on a Zoom call Saturday. “I can play on the power play as a right shot. It was great talking to Steve through this process and I’m excited to get back and get going and show what I’m capable of as a player.”

Yzerman was not made available to media.

Gagner was speaking from Edmonton, where he lives in the offseason with his wife and children. He returned shortly after the season was paused.

He spent less than three weeks with the Wings, scoring one goal and making it clear part of his appeal is he can show young players how to be a good pro.

“I think I’ve handled a lot of adversity in my career and you grow from that,” Gagner said. “I think I can be a lot of help in that area for young players. I’d be doing the team a disservice if I wasn’t pushing as hard as I could to be an important part of the lineup every night. 

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“I don’t think I’d still be around if I just gave in when adversity happened, and I’m just going to continue to push to play as long as I can and be an important part of the Wings. And when adversity does strike, as it does every season, I think I’m very well versed in handling that, and hopefully it can rub off.”

A former sixth overall pick (2007, Oilers), Gagner has played 844 NHL games in a career that also has included stays with the Arizona Coyotes, Philadelphia Flyers, Columbus Blue Jackets and Vancouver Canucks. He’s recorded 164 goals and 295 assists.

Gagner is a no-risk signing. If the Wings need a roster spot for a young player, he can be waived and sent to the minors. If he’s in the lineup, he’s a solid grinder who can chip in with a goal here and there. 

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Men and Moments that made the Detroit Red Wings will be published in October by Triumph Books. To preorder, go to Amazon.

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