Zawaski: Would Sam Gagner Fit With Blackhawks?

The Blackhawks have interest in Gagner, according to a report.

Jay Zawaski
December 05, 2018 - 12:43 pm

(670 The Score) When it comes to NHL insiders, Sportnet reporter Elliotte Friedman is among the best.

In his most recent "31 Thoughts" piece, Friedman included several interesting notes about the Blackhawks, who appear to be readying to make another move:

The Blackhawks are really pounding the pavement. GM Stan Bowman was at Arizona/Los Angeles on Tuesday. Cap-ologist Kyle Davidson made their last trip, which is not a regular occurrence. They had two scouts at Los Angeles/Vancouver last Tuesday, three at Dallas/Calgary on Wednesday and two more the following night for Los Angeles/Edmonton. That’s more Kings than in a blackjack shoe.” A source tells me to not read much into the Los Angeles situation, but I am told there is something behind Friedman’s second Blackhawks item. Chicago might be thinking about Sam Gagner, too. He chose Vancouver over them in the summer of 2017. They were interested.

A lifetime ago, Gagner was a linemate of Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane during their time with the London Knights. Gagner has spent most of his time in the AHL this season, with Vancouver owning his rights and loaning him to the Toronto Marlies. Gagner, 29, has recorded 15 points in 15 games with the Marlies this season but has only played in seven games for the Canucks, registering one goal and two assists. He's under contract through the 2019-'20 season that pays him $3.15 million annually.

Why would the Blackhawks be looking to get older, smaller and more expensive? That’s a good question. Perhaps they’re sensing Kane’s frustration and are looking for a cheap way to make him happy. Perhaps they could dump an equally bad contract to Vancouver. With Connor Murphy returning to the lineup soon, perhaps Vancouver would be willing to take Brandon Manning (two years left at $2.25 million annually) off Chicago's hands. Manning's signing hasn’t worked out, and now that coach Joel Quenneville has been fired, the Hawks no longer need the services of a "stay at home" defenseman.

Artem Anisimov is another trade option. The Blackhawks' one-time second-line center, he has struggled to find his place in the lineup. While his play has improved of late, he’d be more valuable to another roster. After this season, the Blackhawks will still owe Anisimov $4.5 million for the next two seasons. He will absolutely be traded. It’s just a matter of when and to where. If the deal was Anisimov and/or Manning for Gagne, it’s a move that would improve the Canucks while saving the Hawks some money and ridding themselves of an albatross contract.

If the Blackhawks do decide to make this move (there’s no guarantee they will) and give up an asset like a prospect or pick to make it happen, I’m not sure what it accomplishes. At this point in his career, Gagner doesn’t suddenly make the Blackhawks a playoff team. If anything, all he does is make you good enough to reduce your draft lottery chances.

While it’s reassuring to know that Bowman isn't satisfied, it’s difficult to see what his long-term plan is for the roster. Does he still believe the Blackhawks are a playoff team? If so, he might be the only person left in town who feels that way.

Jay Zawaski is the executive producer of the Bernstein & McKnight Show on 670 middays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m and a columnist for 670 The Score. He also is the co-host of the Madhouse Chicago Hockey Podcast, which is available on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify or your preferred podcast app. Follow him on Twitter @JayZawaski670.​​​