Sports: A free-agent profile for forward Sam Gagner

NHL Free Agency: Top 5 Centers Still Available

  NHL Free Agency: Top 5 Centers Still Available Let's take a look at the five best middle men still available on the NHL's free agent market.The calendar is rapidly approaching August, and a number of key free agents are still out there for the taking.

The 2007 NHL Draft ended up bringing many superstars into the league, most namely Patrick Kane, Max Pacioretty, P.K. Subban, Ryan McDonagh, and others, but one forgotten name from that class is Sam Gagner. After a 15-year NHL career that’s included 967 games and 505 points, the journeyman forward finds himself without a team for the 2022-23 NHL season.

Detroit Red Wings center Sam Gagner © Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports Detroit Red Wings center Sam Gagner

Gagner never quite reached his sixth-overall billing, hitting the 50-point mark only once, but he’s been nothing if not serviceable depth for a long time in this league. With a bit of a reduced role in Detroit last season, he actually produced his best offensive numbers since the mid-2010s. In a fourth-line role on a rebuilding team, Gagner still managed solid possession results all things considered, and there are certainly worse options to have in the faceoff circle in a pinch. It’s probably not a great bet to expect anything more than 10 goals and 25 points out of him, but on the league-minimum salary that he’ll undoubtedly cost, again, there are worse options.

Agent: There have been 'expressions of interest' in P.K. Subban

  Agent: There have been 'expressions of interest' in P.K. Subban Subban is coming off a 22-point campaign with the Devils in 77 games. Notably, his average playing time dipped under 20 minutes a night for the first time in his career. He averaged 18:18, which put him fifth among New Jersey’s blueliners. That was a drop of more than four minutes a game compared to 2020-21, hardly ideal for someone heading into free agency. A year ago, Subban had a case that he could still be a top-four defender, but it will be harder for his camp to make that argument now.

33 years old now, Gagner presents a case for one of the more dependable, versatile options on the open market for low-risk veteran forwards. Whether anyone actually takes a swing on the former top-ten pick remains to be seen.

Stats

2021-22: 81 GP, 13 G, 18 A, 31 PTS, -4 rating, 32 PIMs, 132 shots, 13:37 ATOI

Career: 967 GP, 184 G, 321 A, 505 PTS, -133 rating, 427 PIMs, 1982 shots, 15:57 ATOI

Potential Suitors

The Winnipeg Jets jump out as a team with playoff aspirations that not only have ample cap space, but a clear roster need for depth forwards as well. While money won’t be a concern with accommodating Gagner, Winnipeg lacks forward depth with NHL experience at the bottom of the lineup. While Gagner may not be able to repeat last year’s production, he’s probably a safer bet to be an everyday NHL player than a player like Kristian Reichel or Morgan Barron.

Free-agent defenseman Anton Stralman presents an opportunity for teams in need of leadership, depth

  Free-agent defenseman Anton Stralman presents an opportunity for teams in need of leadership, depth Stralman still carries value in his leadership and experience, and given he’s 70 games away from 1,000 in the NHL, it’s a fair bet to assume he still has the drive to play in the league. On a contending team, though, he’s likely not more than a sixth or seventh defenseman at this stage. He does have the added value of being a right-shot defenseman, which some teams could surely use some added depth at. His play-driving ability, at least offensively, is still strong, but would likely need a sound two-way partner to have a lot of effectiveness.Stats2021-22: 74 GP, 8-15-23, -16 rating, 12 PIMs, 95 shots, 44.

Another Canadian team in a similar position, although maybe not with as much need, is the Ottawa Senators. Gagner could provide some competition at the bottom of the lineup for players like Parker Kelly, and he’d certainly provide more offensive upside than other veterans in the organization like Scott Sabourin and Jayce Hawryluk.

If Gagner does sign with a new team this offseason, it’ll be his seventh since entering the league.

Contract Projection

A player in Gagner’s position likely wouldn’t earn more than the $750K league minimum on a one-year deal. It’s also entirely possible that Gagner, similarly to players in years past like James Neal, has to settle for a professional tryout contract (PTO) to keep his NHL career (and dream of hitting 1,000 NHL games) alive.

Subscribe to Yardbarker's Morning Bark, the most comprehensive newsletter in sports. Customize your email to get the latest news on your favorite sports, teams and schools. Emailed daily. Always free! Sign up now ▸

A profile of free agent center Alex Galchenyuk

  A profile of free agent center Alex Galchenyuk Given where Galchenyuk sits now, a free agent with no contract signed almost a month into free agency, some may feel his career is winding to a close at just 28 years of age. Due to his hype, many also forget just how good Galchenyuk was in his early days with Montreal. Debuting in his first pro season, Galchenyuk had 27 points as a rookie in 48 games during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. Seeing as he was still only a teenager, his less-than-incredible production was easily forgiven. However, he would take some time in his development, finally breaking out in 2015-16 with a career-high 30 goals and 56 points in 82 games.

More must-reads:

  • A free agent profile for center Paul Stastny
  • A profile of free agent center Alex Galchenyuk
  • The '1996-1998 Detroit Red Wings' quiz

Related slideshow: Every NHL team's likely next retired number (Provided by Yardbarker)

'Go time': Chicago Sky show New York Liberty how WNBA champions play in decisive Game 3 win .
With their Game 3 win over the New York Liberty, the Chicago Sky moved closer to becoming the first WNBA team in 20 years to repeat as champions.Trailing by three early in the fourth quarter, the New York Liberty were aiming for a first-round upset over the No. 2 seed Chicago Sky. Chicago responded by ending the game on a 22-7 run and taking the winner-take-all Game 3 of the WNBA playoffs first-round matchup, 90-72.

See also