Red Wings Role Call is assessing every player who held a significant place in the fortunes of the 2021-22 Detroit Red Wings season. We’ll be looking at the highs and lows they experienced during the just-completed campaign, as well as what the future holds for them in Detroit. Today, we feature forward Sam Gagner.
Position: Center/Right Wing
2021-22 totals (GP-G-A-P): 81-13-18-31
Contract Status: Unrestricted Free Agent
No one can dispute that Sam Gagner was delivering the goods for the 2021-22 Detroit Red Wings. Gagner contributed his best goal output in a campaign at the NHL level in six years and his most points in five seasons. And he did so while mostly being deployed for fourth-line duty and while offered almost no power-play time. At the same time, he was filling a role as a mentor and leader for Detroit’s young players.
“Like I’ve said multiple times, I’ve really enjoyed my time here,” Gagner said. “I feel like I’ve grown with this group. I still feel even though I’m a veteran that I have some years left and I can help this group continue to grow.”
2021-22 Red Wings Highlights
During 3-1 victory at Winnipeg over the Jets on April 6, Gagner opened the scoring with a shorthanded marker. It was his 500th NHL point.
— Bally Sports Detroit (@BallySportsDET) April 7, 2022
Finishing the season with 967 games played, Gagner surpassed the total of 946 NHL games played by his father Dave Gagner from 1984-99. His 81 games played matched a career high.
2021-22 Red Wings Lowlight
Gagner went 19 games without a goal from Dec. 18-Feb. 12.
What Does His Detroit Future Hold?
Gagner is entering the summer as an unrestricted free agent. just as he did last summer. The Wings opted to ink him to a one-year deal. There’s a groundswell of support suggesting the team should do so again this summer.
“I’m hopeful,” Gagner said. “I’d like to be back but obviously there’s a lot at play.”
As much as the Wings admire and respect what Gagner brings to the table, whether there’s a seat for him there next season is uncertain at best, perhaps even unlikely. Detroit already has 11 forwards under contract. Filip Zadina and Mitchell Stephens are restricted free agents, meaning they’re likely to be retained.
Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman is suggesting he’ll be active in the free-agent market. It’s known he’d love an upgrade at No. 2 center. Jonatan Berggren and Elmer Soderblom will be given every chance to make the club in training camp.
— IcehockeyGifs (@IcehockeyG) May 7, 2022
In other words, unless there’s a trade that removes some forwards from the roster, it might be difficult to find a fit for Gagner.
Gagner, 32, recognizes this fact of life. He understands that at this stage of his career, his future won’t be Yzerman’s first priority.
“I don’t expect that meeting to happen in the next few days or so,” Gagner admitted of the impending discussion of his future with Yzerman. “I’m just gonna go about my business and try and be as prepared as I can for next year and see what happens.”