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Sam Gagner’s strange path to Vancouver Canucks

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This post is part of Canucks Day on PHT…

Plenty of free agents take winding paths, particularly when it comes to joining struggling teams like the Vancouver Canucks. Even by those standards, Sam Gagner‘s traveled a strange path.

His NHL career started off strong as the Edmonton Oilers made him the sixth pick of the 2007 NHL Draft. Gagner made an immediate impact, scoring 13 goals and 49 points as a rookie in 2007-08.

The high point of his Oilers run came in February 2012 when he became the first player since Mario Lemieux to generate an eight-point night. He also broke a Wayne Gretzky record during that stretch.

That’s not to say that it was all good times for Gagner in Edmonton. There were some freakish injuries and, naturally, the Oilers struggled on the ice.

2014-15

Things started to get weird when Gagner was traded twice on the same day on June 29, 2014. Gagner was sent to the Lightning and then to the Arizona Coyotes, with Tampa Bay essentially laundering $1.6 million of Gagner’s cap hit.

After some “tough years,” Gagner was hoping that he could take advantage of a clean slate with Arizona. That fresh start didn’t go too well, with a healthy scratch included.

2015-16

The Coyotes decided that Gagner just wasn’t working as a center and then decided to trade him to the Philadelphia Flyers in that odd trade that sent Chris Pronger’s contract to Arizona. Once again, Gagner was involved in teams dealing with odd salary cap machinations.

Once again, Gagner hoped to prove something, but he didn’t pull it off to the Flyers’ liking.

Along the way, there always seemed to be questions about his status, from buyout talk to AHL demotions. Gagner was also placed on waivers. He was occasionally bloodied and generally disregarded in Philly.

2016-17

Here’s how low his status dropped by last summer: he signed a bargain-basement one-year contract with a Columbus Blue Jackets team that came off an awful 2015-16 season. Gagner accepted a $650K “prove-it” salary.

And he did indeed prove it as the trigger on a shockingly effective Blue Jackets power play. His resurgence became one of the feel-good stories of last season.

In scoring 18 goals and 50 points, Gagner resurrected his career, earning a three-year, $9.45 million contract with the Canucks in the process.

***

Rarely will you see such a combination of great bounces and lousy luck as Gagner’s experienced. He began as a high draft pick, broke some records in Edmonton, and eventually fell out of favor/was often a scapegoat with the Oilers. He was tossed around in trades and struggled to stick with teams. There was also a lockout run in Austria, a fight with Olli Jokinen, and some tough-luck injuries.

And now, after those twists and turns, Gagner finds what looks like stability in Vancouver.

Then again, it doesn’t look like Gagner has a no-trade clause, so who knows …

NHL suspends Desjardins two preseason games for illegal check to the head

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The NHL’s Department of Player Safety has issued another two-game preseason suspension, this time to Andrew Desjardins of the New York Rangers.

The incident occurred during the first period of Saturday’s game between the Rangers and New Jersey Devils, as Desjardins delivered a hit to the head of Miles Wood.

Desjardins received a match penalty for an illegal check to the head, and a two-game preseason ban on Monday.

“Desjardins, looking to prevent Wood from cutting to the front of the net, steps in front of Wood and delivers a high hit, which makes the head the main point of contact on a hit where such head contact was avoidable,” stated the Department of Player Safety in a video explanation.

“It is important to note that Wood is eligible to be hit on this play, provided it is done in a legal manner. However, rather than taking an angle of approach that results in a legal, full-bodied check, Desjardins takes an angle of approach that picks Wood’s head, making it the main point of contact.”

The Rangers are in action right now versus the Philadelphia Flyers. They have one game remaining on their preseason schedule after tonight, as they take on the Flyers again tomorrow.

Desjardins was attending Rangers camp on a professional tryout.

 

Devils score early and often, opening up seven-goal lead vs. Senators

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Tough night for the Ottawa Senators and, specifically, goaltender Mike Condon on Monday.

Playing the New Jersey Devils in the Kraft Hockeyville showcase in Summerside, Prince Edward Island, Condon allowed seven goals on 17 shots before the midway point of the second period.

Andrew Hammond then entered into the game for Ottawa, with the Senators down 7-0.

Marcus Johansson started the scoring onslaught for New Jersey. Nico Hischier gave the Devils a three-goal lead before the eight-minute mark of the opening period, and John Quenneville scored twice in less than 30 seconds to put New Jersey up by seven in the second period.

Golden Knights embed season ticket members’ names in T-Mobile Arena ice

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The Vegas Golden Knights have chosen an interesting way to honor their season ticket members, as the organization inches closer to starting its inaugural NHL regular season.

The Golden Knights will, for the first time, play on their home ice at T-Mobile Arena on Tuesday against the L.A. Kings in preseason action. To commemorate this historic season, the organization will embed the names of its season ticket members into the ice surface at their home arena.

(You can check out the video here. Very cool.)

“That it was feasible, if we wanted to do something special on the ice, that we had the ability to put texture to something on the ice, before the laid the last round of it,” said Todd Pollock, Golden Knights vice-president of ticketing and suites.

“It’s in the thousands, the number of names out there. Many thousands.”

The Golden Knights have played four preseason games so far — all on the road. They open the regular season with two games in two nights on the road, on Oct. 6 versus the Dallas Stars and the following night versus the Arizona Coyotes. They return to Vegas for their home opener against the Coyotes on Oct. 10.

NHL players weigh in on national anthem protests, divisive President Trump comments

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A number of National Hockey League players and coaches on Monday expressed their opinions about the national anthem protests and the divisive comments of President Donald Trump during a rally on Friday and on Twitter this weekend.

At a rally on Friday, Trump urged NFL team owners to fire players that take a knee during the National Anthem. He reiterated those remarks on Twitter the following day.

On Sunday, almost every NFL team took part in a form of protest against racial inequality and injustice during the anthem. Some players took a knee. Other players linked arms with fellow players, coaches and even team owners in a show of solidarity. Some teams, like the Pittsburgh Steelers, Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans did not take the field during the anthem.

On Monday, Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews, who is 20 years old and from Scottsdale, AZ., said he would not take part in protest during the anthem.

“My great uncle served, I have friends and family who’ve served, there’s men and women who have risked their lives for the United States, people who have died for the United States,” Matthews said, per Sportsnet.

“I don’t know if kneeling, sitting, stretching is something I’d really look into doing because to me it’s like a dishonour to the men and women that fight for that flag, fight for the U.S. I don’t think I’d be one of the people to take part in that.”

Boston Bruins forward David Backes, who is from Minneapolis, MN., said he will continue to stand during the Star Spangled Banner.

“My opinion is that I’m American and I love my country and I love my flag,” said Backes, per CSNNE.com.

“I’ve got great buddies that have been in the military and they’ve sacrificed for my freedom, so I’d never want to do anything to disrespect that. My standpoint is that I’m standing for every national anthem with my hand over my heart and I’m staring at that flag recognizing those sacrifices. If I’ve got beef with a social justice issue or something else-wise, I’m going to find different avenues that are not disrespectful, especially to those that are military men and women that give me the freedom to do what I do.”

Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Justin Faulk told the Edmonton Journal that players have the right to protest, while his head coach Bill Peters does not believe that kneeling during the National Anthem is a sign of disrespect.

“I understand both sides. I don’t think anyone is truly trying to disrespect the flag, to be honest with you,” Peters told the Raleigh News & Observer. “I think people have too much pride in what’s going on in their countries, and they just want to make it better and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

Winnipeg Jets forward Blake Wheeler is believed to be the first NHL player to publicly speak out against the comments of President Trump, doing so from his verified Twitter account on Saturday. His comments followed scathing criticism of the President from a number of athletes, including NBA stars LeBron James and Stephen Curry, in the wake of what Trump said at the rally. Following Sunday’s schedule of games, a number of NFL players spoke about the protests.

“I’m absolutely for the first amendment,” said Wheeler, when asked if he would support a teammate if they decide to take a knee during the National Anthem.

“I’m a big believer that what makes America a special place is you’re allowed to stand up for what you believe in. With just cause, if someone were electing to do that they would 100 percent have my support. Even if I don’t necessarily agree with why they do it it is their right to feel that way, it is their right to behave that way. If I didn’t agree with it, I would absolutely sit down, have a coffee, talk about it, try to understand why they feel that way and maybe you become a little more sympathetic.”