Smilin’ Sam Gagner is smiling no more.
Not even Gagner’s slapper against the Kings was enough to save his job. Throughout last season, Gagner never really found a fit anywhere in the Canucks lineup. He looked best at the tail end of the season, when he scored a couple of goals in garbage time on a line with the Sedin twins. Other than that, Gagner was nothing but a ghost of the player who potted 50 points with the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2016-17.
July 1 2017, damn— Jason Botchford (@botchford) October 1, 2018
With Gagner hitting the waiver wire, “bubble” players such as Markus Granlund, Brendan Leipsic, Nikolay Goldobin and Tyler Motte have made the team out of camp. Motte might have been the most surprising name, but he was arguably the best Canuck, other than Elias Pettersson, during an underwhelming offseason.
Gagner joins an interesting group of players to hit the waiver wire over the last few days. Notable names to hit the list included Curtis Lazar, Reme Elie, Tom Kuhnhackel, Dale Weise and Dmitri Jaskin.
Of those players, Curtis Lazar recently cleared waivers. When younger players such as Lazar are clearing with ease, it’s difficult to picture Gagner landing with another organization. For teams looking at help on the right wing, a younger, cheaper plays such as Jaskin might be a better option.
Although Gagner is likely to land in Utica, here are three teams who I think might take a stab at snagging the veteran.
Over the past couple of seasons, the New Jersey Devils are one team who likes to try and incorporate veterans into the roster. They had Michael Grabner and Patrick Maroon on their team at stages last season. Drew Stafford was also in training camp on a PTO and has yet to be cut.
The Devils are trending towards incorporating younger players into their lineup (just like the rest of the league), so Gagner might not be the most appealing option there. However, if there’s a spot where Gagner might succeed in a similar role to the one he had in Columbus, it might be in New Jersey on the fourth line.
While most teams like to incorporate youth into their lineup, Anaheim is a team who isn’t as quick to do so. They have given opportunities to guys such as Nick Ritchie and Ondrej Kase, but they don’t blanket their lineup with youth like some teams.
With injuries and illnesses affecting Ryan Kesler, Corey Perry and Patrick Eaves, there are holes in the Ducks lineup. Gagner might be a more appealing option to the Ducks, rather than shoving a rookie such as Troy Terry into the lineup. Every Duck fan might disagree with that statement (and rightfully so), but Bob Murray might opt to go with a guy like Gagner over a raw rookie.
UPDATE: The Ducks did make a waiver claim for a RW this morning as they try to find fill-ins for injured players. That player was not Gagner however, but the younger, cheaper, Pontus Aberg.
Los Angeles Kings
Here’s another older team who’s still looking to squeeze success out of their main core. The Los Angeles Kings were in on Max Pacioretty during the offseason, and ended up with Ilya Kolvalchuk instead.
Their top-six is all but set, and they have a glut of young players fighting for roster spots. That group includes Gabe Vilardi, Jaret Anderson-Dolan, Michael Amadio and Austin Wagner. Chances are they choose to go with this group rather than take a chance on Gagner. The Kings traditionally load up their fourth line with guys in checking roles, although they did have a shift away from that last season.
If you squint, you could see a scenario where the Kings take a shot on Gagner in the bottom six, especially after the news that Dustin Brown will miss the beginning of the season with a broken finger. The Kings were equally as bad as the Canucks during preseason (1-6-1) and were on-hand for Gagner’s only preseason goal. Bet on this as the most likely option for Gagner, albeit a slim one at that.