Af­ter 800 NHL games, Sam Gag­ner back in the mi­nors in Bak­ers­field

Edmonton Sun - - SPORTS - Jim MATHE­SON jmath­e­[email protected] @Nhlby­matty

Sam Gag­ner bought a house here this sum­mer and doc­tor/wife Rachel just gave birth to their third child, a girl to go with their two boys, so this is hardly the time to be go­ing to Bak­ers­field.

But, that’s the life of an NHLER, even one with more than 800 games, when los­ing a num­bers game.

Gag­ner spent much of last year on loan to the AHL Toronto Mar­lies rather than their farm club in Utica af­ter Van­cou­ver Canucks sent him down so it’s been there, done that for the Oil­ers’ winger. He was also in the AHL briefly with Philadel­phia Fly­ers. But, this isn’t what Gag­ner had in mind af­ter play­ing 25 games for Oil­ers last sea­son af­ter a trade for Ryan Spooner, who’s now play­ing in Switzer­land.

The Oil­ers wanted more play­ers who could kill penal­ties on a team that was 30th last year and Gag­ner can play se­cond power play eas­ily, but he’s not a PK guy. They also were look­ing for more speed on wing and they kept Joakim Ny­gard, Josh Archibald and To­mas Jurco, three sum­mer sign­ings as free-agents.

Gag­ner, who had 10 points in those 25 Oil­ers games last sea­son, will make his full $3.25 mil­lion in Bak­ers­field, which helps ob­vi­ously, but he’s in the mi­nors with lots of kids — Kailer Ya­mamoto, Tyler Ben­son, Ryan Mcleod, Kir­ill Mak­si­mov and Cooper Mar­ody.

“When you build an Amer­i­can League team you need vet­eran play­ers to be the role mod­els and men­tors help­ing the kids de­velop,” said Hol­land. “I talked to Sam and men­tioned Dan Cleary go­ing to Grand Rapids for Detroit, and how much he en­joyed the ex­pe­ri­ence and it led to a player de­vel­op­ment per­son for the Red Wings.”

“We need Sam to go to Bak­ers­field with a great at­ti­tude, work hard and at the same time there’s a re­ally good chance at some time, he’ll be back. This is our ros­ter for open­ing day but you’re go­ing to need 15, 16, 17 for­wards over a sea­son."

“I told Sam to go down and we’ll be watch­ing.”

Gag­ner had 37 points in 43 games for the AHL Mar­lies.


Hol­land saw two young for­wards Josh Ho-sang (Is­landers) and Daniel Sprong (Ana­heim) on waivers but wasn’t tempted to claim ei­ther one. He would have to get rid of a player to add Ho-sang or Sprong, who had 14 goals for Ducks last year. They’re look­ing big­ger pic­ture for pos­si­ble needs. “You want to add a top six for­ward or top four de­fence­man and teams are keep­ing those,” said Hol­land.

Dave Tip­pett is closelippe­d about his starters in net and couldn’t be tricked into re­veal­ing it Tues­day af­ter prac­tice. “Who’s the backup goalie?” a re­porter asked on the sly. “Uh, the one who’s not start­ing,” chuck­led Tip­pett, af­ter a lit­tle de­lib­er­a­tion. Off Tues­day’s Oil­ers skate, Mike Smith took the net the starter’s usu­ally in for games, so we’ll see. Smith will wear black and or­ange pads at home and white on the road.


Winger To­mas Jurco was go­ing to be on Con­nor Mcdavid’s left side to start the sea­son off his five pre-sea­son points in four games but Tip­pett says he has a “med­i­cal pro­ce­dure” planned for Wed­nes­day so he’s out and Ny­gard’s there. Jurco stays on the ros­ter, though. He’s not go­ing on in­jured re­serve.


Os­car Klef­bom is ex­cited to have Smith’s abil­ity to move the puck, eas­ing the wear and tear on de­fence­men go­ing back to get dump-ins. Smith is six-foot-five but he’s got a fairly short stick, which seems odd, but it works. “He’s prob­a­bly bet­ter with the puck than I am so I’m not go­ing back much to han­dle it. I’ll leave it to him to make all the sauce passes,” said Klef­bom.


Klef­bom is used to hav­ing Adam Lars­son as his part­ner but he’ll have for­mer farm­hand Ethan Bear on right side for the opener. “He’s fast, he looks con­fi­dent, he’s ma­tured the last cou­ple of years. We know what his po­ten­tial is as a de­fence­man,” said Klef­bom, will­ing to be a men­tor. “It’ll be fun to play with Ethan al­though I have to ad­just my game and adapt. You al­ways know where Adam is in the de­fen­sive zone, he’s steady, solid. Ethan is re­ally good with the puck.”


Hol­land said he’s talked to a cou­ple of teams about Jesse Pulju­jarvi over the last two weeks but noth­ing sub­stan­tial. “Most teams are fo­cused on their open­ing night ros­ters,” he said …De­fence­man Joel Pers­son (shoul­der) starts on IR but he did prac­tise with the team Tues­day. “He’s at least a week away. He’s not close to hav­ing con­tact,” said Tip­pett ... Dar­nell Nurse and Leon Drai­saitl are the Oil­ers’ new al­ter­nate cap­tains for this sea­son. They join Ryan Nu­gent-hop­kins and Adam Lars­son ... As­sis­tant coach Jim Play­fair’s ac­tor/son Dy­lan, who stars on the TV show Let­terkenny, watched prac­tice Tues­day. Dy­lan, 27, was once a for­ward who played in the B.C. Ju­nior Hockey League in Mer­ritt. Oil Kings as­sis­tant coach Luke Pierce was Dy­lan’s ju­nior A coach … D John Marino, traded to Pitts­burgh for a sixth-round draft pick, is on their open­ing-day ros­ter … Canucks winger Sven Baertschi, who has the skill to be a top-nine for­ward but has had con­cus­sion is­sues, cleared waivers — mainly be­cause he makes $3.66 mil­lion this year and next … Bill Com­rie’s goalie/son Eric, born here in 1995, was claimed off the Jets ros­ter by Ari­zona with a lower-body in­jury to Antti Raanta.



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