Sam Gagner eager to get started with Red Wings; Tyler Bertuzzi looks past Devil's light fine

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit – Sam Gagner has been through this stuff before. He will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and he knew a trade was a possibility.

Sure enough, Gagner found himself part of the package headed to Detroit in Monday’s Andreas Athanasiou trade with Edmonton.

“Surprised, but there’s always a possibility when you’re a UFA and the team is trying to improve,” said Gagner, who went through his first practice with the Wings Wednesday. “You kind of figure there’s a possibility.”

Detroit Red Wings left wing Tyler Bertuzzi checks New Jersey Devils center Jack Hughes off the puck in the second period Tuesday night.

Now, though, Gagner is excited to get going with his new team.

“When I wrapped my head around it I got pretty excited,” Gagner said. “There’s a good opportunity for me to show what I’m capable of and I’m excited to get going here.”

Gagner, 30, had five goals and seven assists in 36 games this season in Edmonton, falling behind on a rapidly growing depth chart.

Gagner has 163 goals and 458 points in 838 career games with Edmonton, Arizona, Philadelphia, Columbus and Vancouver in his NHL career.

Gagner talked with general manager Steve Yzerman after Monday’s trade, shortly after finding out about the trade from Edmonton GM Ken Holland.

“Kenny put me on the phone with him (Yzerman) and he said there’s an opportunity here for me, and I just have to come in and take it,” Gagner said. “I feel like I’ve been through this process before with some other teams and I can fill a leadership role and help the guys get through it, and that’s what I’m here to do.”

With any trade, there are family considerations. Gagner and his wife Rachel just had a baby girl, five months old, their third child under the age of four.

“It’s tough,” said Gagner, of moving away for a month. “My wife being from Edmonton, that’s the tough part of it. The great thing is she’s so supportive and she understands how much this means to me, finding a way to extend my career and be an important part of things.

“She flew out here the day I flew out here, so that kind of helped me transition. It’s always great to have that support for sure.”

Gagner will be in Thursday’s lineup against Minnesota, said coach Jeff Blashill.

“I’ve heard great things about him as a person, a teammate, a competitor,” Blashill said. “My message is be a great pro, No. 1. We need great pros around here. No. 2, you’re going to get an opportunity. There's an opportunity to be had, certainly on the power play. We don’t have any right-shot power-play forwards. Luke (Glendening) our only right-shot forward and he’s not a natural power-play guy, so (Gagner) is going to get that opportunity for sure.”

The aftermath

On the heels of Tuesday’s dust-up with the Devils, New Jersey forward John Hayden was fined $2,016.13 by the NHL Department of Player Safety for Hayden’s crosscheck to the face of Tyler Bertuzzi.

Hayden was retaliating for Bertuzzi’s hit on Devils forward Jack Hughes, whose knee-on-knee collision with Robby Fabbri began the entire episode. 

Bertuzzi said he had no opinion about the fine.

“I don’t really care honestly,” Bertuzzi said. “It’s part of the game. Whether it was dirty or not, he’s sticking up for his teammate. I’d probably do the same thing.

“Obviously it’s not what I wanted, to get a crosscheck, but like I said, it’s part of the game. They’re trying to protect him after his (Hughes) hit on Fabbs.”

Blashill said Wednesday that Fabbri, who has had two significant knee surgeries, likely avoided any sort of long-term injury but is questionable for Thursday’s game against Minnesota.

Blashill hopes Fabbri will continue to play with the tenacity he’s had since joining the Wings.

“One of things when he came over was I wanted him to make sure he played with that tenacity that’s going to allow him to be a real good NHL player,” Blashill said. “With the injuries he had  in St. Louis, he had lost some of that, just from talking to the previous coaches there. It’s important for a guy who is undersized and not super fast that he plays with that type of intensity and makes up for it with ferocity, and he’s done a real good job of that.”

Ice chips

Along with Fabbri, Filip Hronek (upper body) and Gustav Lindstrom (arm) are questionable for Thursday. Adam Erne, who missed Tuesday’s game, is available.

… Gagner renewed an old friendship by joining the Wings. Gagner and defenseman Cody Goloubef, who was claimed off waivers Friday, grew up together in Oakville, Ontario.

“We’ve been friends since we were 10,” Gagner said.

… Blashill has coached Team USA at the world championships for the last three years but that streak has come to an end. Peter Laviolette Wednesday was named coach of this year’s team.

“I overextended my welcome,” Blashill joked. “I’d like to not be doing it because we’re in the playoffs but that’s clearly not the case. It was a great opportunity, I really enjoyed my time doing it. But my kids will be happy.”

Wild at Red Wings

Faceoff: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Little Caesars Arena

TV/radio: FSD/97.1 FM 

Outlook: The Wild (30-25-7) remain on the fringe of the playoff chase thanks to six wins in their last 10 games (6-3-1). … C Eric Staal (44 points) and LW Zach Parise (21 goals) pace the Wild attack.

Twitter: @tkulfan