Simon Gagne aims for a contract extension with the Tampa Bay Lightning

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for simongagne6.jpgThere are a lot of reasons why I thought that – while he wasn’t technically a free agent – Simon Gagne was quietly the best forward value on the market this summer. When healthy, Gagne is a speedy winger with at least some defensive conscience who also brings a goal scoring ability to the table. Beyond a $100 million player such as Ilya Kovalchuk and a wallflower with a lower ceiling such as Alex Frolov, there weren’t many players to compare to Gagne on the open market.

But what really set Gagne apart in my mind is the (relative) low-risk nature of his situation. While $5.25 million is far from cheap, he’s in the last year of his deal, so if things don’t work out the Tampa Bay Lightning will only suffer for one season. Compare that to the extraordinary risk the New Jersey Devils are taking with Kovalchuk (and the fact that the Lightning gave up very little to acquire Gagne) and GM Steve Yzerman quite possibly landed one of the coups of the summer.

Of course, most athletes playing a dangerous, high-impact sport would prefer to enjoy the security of a longer deal. Mike Corcoran shares Gagne’s stated goal for the 2010-11 season: to earn a contract extension with the Lightning.

Much was made over some comments made before the start of training camp, when the term “one year” was heard, but there is no doubt what Gagne is hoping for in the long term.

“I didn’t come here to be here one year and move somewhere else after [this year],” Gagne said. “I would love to make things work here with Vinny, and the boys here, the coaching staff, Mr. Yzerman, having a good start, and hopefully finding a way to get an extension. That’s my goal and hopefully that is going to work.”

Gagne is expected to be a huge part of what the team is trying to accomplish this year. He is an integral part of what many believe is one of the best top-six in hockey. The Lightning are hoping that Gagne can stay healthy and return to the player that had back-to-back 40-goal seasons. He has looked good in practice and preseason games, including a three-point night against the defending Stanley Cup-champion Chicago Blackhawks.

With his history of nagging injuries (from less serious ailments such as groin problems to scary stuff like concussions), you cannot blame Tampa Bay if they test the waters for most of – if not all – of the season. The team also will need to re-sign Steven Stamkos this summer and Victor Hedman the next, so Gagne will need to keep his expectations realistic.

Still, Gagne is only 30 years old right now, which means he should still have a few more years were he’s at-or-near his prime. He’s probably gearing up for his last “big” contract before he becomes a cheaper veteran option, so don’t be surprised if the talented winger puts up some nice numbers this season.

He certainly has every incentive to do so.

(H/T to John Fontana of Raw Charge.)

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    Kings’ AHL affiliate gives Emery PTO

    Ray Emery
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    Ray Emery has agreed to join the Ontario Reign on a professional tryout, according to a team release.

    The Reign are the minor league affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings.

    Emery attended Tampa Bay’s training camp on a PTO, but he was released after the team claimed Kevin Poulin on waivers from the Islanders.

    The 33-year-old had a 10-11-7 record with a 3.06 goals-against-average and a .894 save percentage in 31 games with the Flyers last season.

    Even with starter Jonathan Quick struggling, it’s hard to envision this move leading to a return to the NHL for Emery.

    The Kings have Quick and Jhonas Enroth with the big club, while veteran Peter Budaj was signed to a two-way contract on Friday.

    Goalie nods: Reimer makes first start of the season

    James Reimer
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    James Reimer will get his first start of the 2015-16 season on Saturday night against Ottawa.

    Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock made it clear from the beginning that Jonathan Bernier was going to start on Wednesday against Montreal and Friday in Detroit, while Reimer would get in against the Sens.

    “I’ve known this for a long time that (Bernier is) starting and he’s starting on Wednesday and he’s starting on Friday. Reims is starting on Saturday,” Babcock said before the season began.

    Things haven’t gone according to plan for Toronto through two games.

    Not only have they lost both contests, but Bernier was pulled in yesterday’s 4-0 loss to the Red Wings, and the team has scored only one goal this season.

    Reimer, who stopped 12 of 13 shots in just under 40 minutes of action against Detroit, will go up against Craig Anderson.


    Cam Talbot will try to get his first win as an Oiler as they travel to Nashville to take on the Predators. Pekka Rinne will start for the Predators.

    Carey Price and Tuukka Rask will face-off when the Canadiens and Bruins renew hostilities at the TD Garden in Boston.

    Petr Mrazek will be between the pipes when the Red Wings take on the ‘Canes in Carolina. Cam Ward gets the nod for the Hurricanes.

    Keith Kinkaid for the Devils. Braden Holtby makes his first start of the year in the Capitals’ season opener.

    Steve Mason for the Flyers. Roberto Luongo for the Panthers in their opener.

    -Columbus hasn’t confirmed who their starter will be in the back half of their home-and-home with the Rangers. Henrik Lundqvist will start for New York.

    Jake Allen makes his first start of the regular season for St. Louis. Devan Dubnyk for the Wild.

    -The Islanders have yet to confirm their starter for tonight’s game in Chicago. Scott Darling for the ‘Hawks after Corey Crawford helped spoil the party in Brooklyn yesterday.

    Antti Niemi gets the call for Dallas after he blanked the Penguins in his first start. Semyon Varlamov for Colorado.

    Jonas Hiller for Calgary. Ryan Miller for the Canucks.

    -The Penguins haven’t confirmed who their starter will be in Arizona tonight. Mike Smith will likely play in back-to-back games after beating the Kings on Friday.

    -The Ducks have yet to confirm their starter. Martin Jones will start for San Jose.