Coyotes have high hopes for Gagner after ‘tough couple of years’ in Edmonton

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“He’s obviously a skilled player. He had a tough year last year — a tough couple of years — and we’re hoping the change of scenery is going to do him good.”

That’s Arizona Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett talking about the club’s big offseason acquisition, former Edmonton forward Sam Gagner. Acquired in a three-team trade involving the Oilers, Coyotes and Lightning, Gagner comes to Arizona as one of the NHL’s more unique stories — he doesn’t turn 25 until August, but has already played nearly 500 NHL contests and is one of just 13 players in league history to score eight points or more in a single game.

But he’s also fallen on hard times.

Last year, specifically, was a nightmare — Gagner suffered a ghastly broken jaw during the preseason that derailed his campaign. He finished with just 10 goals and 37 points in 67 games (not to mention a ghastly minus-29 rating) and, in what was an annual rite of passage in Edmonton, had his name appear in a number of trade rumors, even though he was in the first of a three-year, $14 million deal.

Now though, things start anew.

In Arizona, Gagner joins a more veteran and experienced group and will face stiff competition for minutes at center with a pair of very good two-way guys in Martin Hanzal and Antoine Vermette. He’ll also get some coaching stability in the form of Tippett. To say Gagner’s time in Edmonton was rife with change is an understatement — since breaking in with the Oilers in 2007-08, Gagner had five (Craig MacTavish, Pat Quinn, Tom Renney, Ralph Krueger, Dallas Eakins) different bench bosses; Tippett, meanwhile, has been with the Coyotes for five straight years and is fifth among active NHL coaches in terms of longest tenure.

In short, Gagner is going to a team well honed in the style its head coach wants… as opposed to a team that changes its philosophy more than its underwear. So he’s going to have to get on board with playing Coyotes hockey.

“He’s gotta come in and establish himself as a real good NHL player,” Tippet said. “Use his skills to the best of his ability, but be able to play a real tight-checking game.”

Video: Crosby to Dan Patrick – Subban fight ‘wasn’t as bad as it looked’

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Listerine, the 2017 Stanley Cup Final, and a growing rivalry. Sidney Crosby and P.K. Subban battled it out at the highest level not so long ago, but some of that action looked worse than it actually was.

At least, that’s the message Crosby sent on “The Dan Patrick Show,” as you can enjoy in the clip above.

As a bonus, Crosby also discussed his favorite Stanley Cup traditions – hey, there can be traditions when something happens three times – and how Mario Lemieux inspires some especially creative ideas:

Rebuild on hold? Red Wings reportedly eye Girardi, Hainsey, Daley

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For the first time in ages, the Detroit Red Wings missed the playoffs. To some, the sliver lining was that this might send a message to management to truly commit to a rebuild.

Perhaps GM Ken Holland & Co. aren’t quite ready for that.

Look, one or even a couple of potential free agent signings won’t disqualify the Red Wings from going younger. Still, the rumored defensemen they’re targeting aren’t exactly spring chickens.

Three names floating out there are Trevor Daley, Dan Girardi, and Ron Hainsey.

Daley was mentioned by The Athletic’s Craig Custance, MLive.com’s Ansar Khan, and the Detroit Free-Press’ Helene St. James. Khan and Custance both mention Hainsey and Girardi, too.

Even in one-case mentions, the “veteran” theme continues, with Brian Campbell‘s name coming up while forward Thomas Vanek seems like at least a remote possibility to return to Detroit.

Let’s look at the ages of the defensemen mentioned, noting that Daley is older than some might have expected.

Daley – 33
Girardi – 33
Hainsey – 36
Campbell – 38

In the case of Daley and Girardi, you could also argue that each blueliner also has a lot of “mileage” for their age. Girardi, in particular, plays the sort of grinding, shot-blocking style that might have accelerated his troubles with the Rangers.

As great as experience might be, even for a “final push,” this sends a troubling signal. In Mike Green (31), Jonathan Ericsson (33), and Niklas Kronwall (36), the Red Wings already have an aging group of defensemen. Kronwall and Ericsson are dealing with injuries that may hinder them for the remainder of their careers, too.

When you also note that Holland exposed 25-year-old goalie Petr Mrazek instead of 33-year-old Jimmy Howard, the picture isn’t especially pretty.

Maybe the Red Wings can have their cake (push for a playoff rebound) and eat it too (start to transition to youth), yet it’s not necessarily the aggressive move toward a rebuild that many likely hoped to see.

At least there’s time for Holland to prove these early worries wrong.

Note: In other Red Wings news, the team signed Ben Street to a one-year extension.

Blue Jackets sign Schroeder after trading for him

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Not long after acquiring him in a minor trade from the Minnesota Wild, the Columbus Blue Jackets signed Jordan Schroeder to a two-year contract.

The team confirms that it is a two-way deal for 2017-18 and then becomes one-way in 2018-19.

Schroeder is guaranteed $350K for the first year of that contract and then $650K in 2018-19, according to the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline.

The 22nd pick of the 2009 NHL Draft receives a fitting contract: he’s been a “tweener,” bouncing around the NHL and AHL. He hasn’t been able to make much of an impact, Schroeder at least provides some organizational depth.

That could come in handy, as Portzline indicates that Sam Gagner – not so surprisingly – is expected to garner a lot more attention this time around in free agency. Perhaps Schroeder could serve as insurance for Gagner?

NCAA star Spencer Foo chooses the Flames

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NCAA standout forward Spencer Foo decided to sign with the Calgary Flames, as The Sports Corporation and team confirmed. The signing might not be official until free agency kicks off on Saturday, July 1, but he apparently made his decision.

After managing 25 points in each of his first two seasons with Union College, Foo exploded in 2016-17, racking up 26 goals and 62 points. You can see some of his highlights in the video above.

He didn’t go drafted, so this could be a case of another scorer blossoming late.

Foo is an Edmonton native, so playing close to home in Calgary likely factored into his decision. He was connected to the Edmonton Oilers in earlier rumors while MLive.com’s Ansar Khan indicates that his final choice came down to the Flames or the Detroit Red Wings.

Calgary is already classifying him as a RW. Perhaps he’ll be that long-desired fit for Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan? There’s another positive aspect for the Flames, as this might help to soften the blow of giving up a bundle of assets in the Travis Hamonic deal.

The Sports Corporation tweeted out a photo of Foo, 23, in a Flames jersey: