It all happened very quickly. Last week, the American Hockey League’s Toronto Marlies acquired forward Sam Gagner on loan from the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks. The move came after the the veteran forward cleared waivers. The 29-year-old forward signed with Vancouver as an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2017, agreeing to a three-year, $9.45-million contract.
But then this shocking twist took place.
However, Gagner did not let this bring down his offensive power and he is now leading the Marlies in goals (three), points (five) and shots (11) after just three contests. Still, it does not seem to calm his surprise of everything that has taken place since the start of the season.
“I was shocked,” Gagner told Sportsnet after Tuesday’s practice.
“I didn’t expect it. I didn’t see it coming. I felt like I had a good enough camp and I’d shown enough in my 11 years that I was able to make the team.”
The Canucks have decided to trust younger players and started the season on the right foot, especially with the impressive performance of rookie Elias Patterson. Still, Gagner thought he could have brought in a veteran experience to the roster.
“So I was surprised by it based on the fact they signed me last summer. I came to camp prepared, I had a really good summer of work, I did well on the [fitness] tests, I thought I played pretty well in pre-season, but you just… you try not to worry about it. I’m still playing hockey.”
Gagner was coming off a career-high 50-point season with Columbus Blue Jackets, but mustered just 10 goals and 21 assists in 2017-18 with the Canucks. He is now shocking he still has gas in the tank to bounce back, even in the AHL.
He might also get some much appreciated help from friend and new Toronto Maple Leafs star forward John Tavares, who suggested Gagner takes a room in his house while he plays for the Marlies.
“I might. He’s offered up a room,” Gagner said. “I don’t know what the future holds, so I’m taking it day by day.”
Gagner might still be hoping to get a call from Canucks general manager Jim Benning to come back to Vancouver. However, when the GM told him about the loan, Gagner was informed that the team believes the young core of players can manage the heat for now.
“Basically that I didn’t make it. They have a lot of bodies, and they feel the forward group they have can get it done,” Gagner said.
However, Gagner's recent performance might definitely turn things around...
Photo Credit: Zuma Press