The Flyers have needs, and the lack of wiggle room in the salary cap has put a damper on how much GM Ron Hextall can do in terms of signing talent. This offseason, he has begun to take steps towards undoing messy contracts and allow for re-signing of core players such as Jakub Voracek and Sean Couturier.
In a trade that should make any fan excited, Hextall was able to ship not only Nicklas Grossmann who is aging and beginning to break down, but also the contract of Chris Pronger, who has not appeared in NHL action since his career-ending eye injury in 2011, to Arizona in exchange for for Sam Gagner and a conditional draft pick.
Gagner, 25, is a former first round draft pick, taken sixth overall by the Edmonton Oilers in 2007. Many thought the forward would be immediately bought out, something Hextall did not exactly rule out at first. However, the Flyers held onto him, hoping he could be a low-risk, high-reward pickup.
Although he never truly became the dominate first round talent Edmonton hoped he would be, Gagner has still managed to be a solid player with some upside. So where exactly does he fit with the Flyers?
Most importantly, he can provide some scoring help, an area of constant inconsistency last season. In his first eight year seasons, he notched 116 goals and 220 assists in 562 games played. The lack of scoring depth really hurt the Flyers and their chances of staying in the playoff race. Breaking it down statistically, Gagner should be good for about 15-20 goals a season.
The Flyers do have a few strong, young centers. Gagner adds to that list, and should thrive playing regular minutes compared to the struggling Vincent Lecavalier. He could benefit from playing on one of the bottom lines. His game is primarily offensive, based on his playmaking ability, which is fine because there are already defensive-minded centers on the roster, such as Couturier.
Gagner is really of no real risk to keep around, so it makes perfect sense to give him a shot. He is at least a short-term fix, with potential long-term value. If he does not pan out, he will likely walk in free agency next season.