With the moves the Flyers have made so far this summer, it seemed Sam Gagner was destined to move on.
That reality came to life on Monday morning as the forward, who will turn 27 next week, officially agreed to a deal with Metropolitan Division rival Columbus Blue Jackets. The Jackets confirmed the deal is for one year and $650,000.
To say Gagner's only season in Philadelphia had its ups and downs would be an understatement. When the former sixth overall pick (2007) was acquired from the Arizona Coyotes in a deal involving Chris Pronger's contract at the 2015 entry draft, there were immediately rumors that the Flyers would buy out the remaining year and $4.8 million cap hit on his deal he originally signed with the Edmonton Oilers in 2013. Flyers general Manager Ron Hextall ultimately decided to keep Gagner, but he never seemed to be in the team's long-term plans.
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Though the Flyers kept Gagner, head coach Dave Hakstol made Gagner a healthy scratch numerous times before the team sent him to the AHL for the first time in his career in December after he cleared waivers when no team wanted to pick up his contract.
Gagner was eventually recalled in January after a three-week stint in Lehigh Valley with the Phantoms and went on to play a relatively important role in the Flyers' push to the playoffs as he stepped into top-six forward roles in the injury absences of Sean Couturier and Jake Voracek. Of course, the Flyers eventually made the playoffs, allowing Gagner to play in the postseason for the first time in his nine-year career.
All told, Gagner scored eight goals and added eight assists in 53 regular season games with the Flyers. He posted two assists in the six-game series loss to the Washington Capitals in the first round of the playoffs.
The Flyers' cap space is tight (just over $1 million), but they could have fit Gagner in at $650,000 if they really wanted to. Instead they'll save the money, which will come in handy if a younger player makes the team in training camp and needs to have his contract fit in under the cap.
After playing mostly wing in Philadelphia, Gagner will likely see more time at his natural center spot in Columbus. Though he likely earned this deal with the Jackets based on his strong end to last season, Gagner's 2016-17 season will be a big chance for to prove that he still can be a consistently productive NHL player.