After being traded twice on the same day in June, center Sam Gagner is hoping to put his struggles in Edmonton behind him with a fresh start in Arizona.
Gagner was dealt from the Oilers to the Lightning and then to Arizona in the span of an hour on June 29.
“Obviously the last couple years in Edmonton haven’t been great, so I’m excited for a fresh start,” Gagner told NHL.com. “I’m at that phase of my career where I need to take a step forward, and I feel like Arizona is the place to do that.”
In 481 games with Edmonton, the 25-year-old scored 101 goals and 295 points over seven seasons.
Originally a first-round pick of the Oilers (6th overall in 2007), Gagner never materialized into the point-producing forward he was projected as after averaging more than two points per-game with the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League.
The 5-foot-11, 202-pound Ontario native matched a career-low with 10 goals in 2013-14 while battling with a broken jaw suffered in the preseason.
Gagner’s not the only one hoping a change of scenery will do him well.
Coyotes head coach, Dave Tippett feels more minutes will help Gagner flourish.
“If you look at Gagner in Edmonton, they have some top, top talent with guys like (Ryan) Nugent-Hopkins, (Taylor) Hall, (Jordan) Eberle,” Tippett said. “So we hope that Sam can get some of those key minutes that those players got in Edmonton that will allow him to flourish here.
“It’s always a calculated risk, and we hope the change of scenery will do Sam good.”
NHL.com’s Corey Masisak projects Gagner could move from his natural center position to the wing if rookie centers Max Domi or Henrik Samuelsson are ready for the NHL. As Masisak points out, Gagner’s faceoff numbers are not strong and his defensive game has struggled at times, Gagner was a minus-29 last season.
With the departure of Radim Vrbata and Mike Ribeiro, Gagner will be counted on to contribute in Arizona.
“I’m really excited for it, I think they play a solid two-way game and compete really hard,” Gagner said. “I enjoy playing that way, I think it’s really important to be competitive and work hard on and off the ice. I think it really fits well, and it’s just a matter of making the most of it.”