Veteran Sam Gagner, whose contract expires this summer, said Monday he hopes to be back with the Detroit Red Wings for the 2022-23 season.
“Some of the younger guys are a little closer to my kids’ age,” Gagner said. “But it’s been a lot of fun. I’m really enjoying it and hopeful I can stay here in the future.”
Gagner, 32, came from the Edmonton Oilers during the 2019-20 season and has established him as a versatile player and a team leader usually playing in the bottom six forwards. Gagner has 12 goals this season, despite playing more of a defensive role.
“He could have four goals right now and I would still tell you he’s leading by example,” Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. “He tries to do it right, his approach in terms of his everyday approach has been real good. And he’s trying to play the way that we want to play. I think his example both on and off the ice has been really good.”
Even though the Red Wings want to get younger, they need veterans on the team to help mentor the younger players. He’s a second generation NHL player. His father Dave was a long-time NHLer. Sam is at 957 NHL games played, 11 more than Dave played for seven different NHL games.
“I feel like I’ve been around but I still feel pretty young,” the younger Gagner said. “I’m 32 years old and still feel like I have a lot in common with most of the group.
Gagner Talked to Yzerman
Blashill didn’t know Gagner when the Red Wings acquired him.
“I learned that he was a guy who cared a ton, who was smart, who in that short period of time definitely said to me, ‘I’d like to have him back,’”Blashill said. “Certainly that first full year I think he did an excellent job of leading, especially when times were tough. It says a lot about him, his character the way he handles adversity.”
Gagner said he has discussed his future with Detroit GM Steve Yzerman.
“Every time we’ve talked, I’ve kind of reiterated how I’ve felt about playing here, being here,” Gagner said. “I’m understanding of the fact that there’s a lot to play out here. But certainly I’d like to be here going forward. I’ve really enjoyed my time here. My family really likes it here. I feel like I’m a big part of the room. So I want to keep trying to help this team grow and ultimately reach our goals.”
One of Gagner’s strengths is being a strong presence in the dressing room. He’s calming voice, a player who can speak from experience. Consistency has been one of his traits through his career.
“You talk to any hockey player, we’re all creatures of habit,” Gagner said. “We get into our routines and how we go about our business. It’s hard moving around to different teams and going through that. Certainly, I’ve really enjoyed my time here. I’ve liked that the last couple of years I’ve had a chance to kind of settle into my role and play some important minutes. That’s been nice. Being a leader is something I take a lot of pride and responsibility in, trying to help this young group grow. It’s been a lot of fun for me.”
Gagner’s wife probably is rooting for a contract extension.
“My family has been really happy, too, not having to move around,” Gagner said “My wife’s kind of a pro mover at this point, but she’d prefer not to do every year, so that part of it has been good.”