Sam Gagner is a Blue Jacket after signing a one-year deal on Monday morning. The 26-year-old London, Ont. native is a six-point 40-point scorer in the NHL and was the sixth overall pick at the 2007 NHL Draft held at Nationwide Arena.
We caught up with him shortly after the announcement to discuss a variety of topics.
CBJ.com: When did the conversations begin with the Blue Jackets that led to you signing?
Gagner: There’s been ongoing dialogue with Columbus for the last month or so. Over the last week, things picked up. The biggest thing is that I think it’s a really good fit for me, and I think Columbus is a lot better team than the record showed last year. There are a lot of really good, up-and-coming players along with a lot of established players, and I was convinced there’s an opportunity for me to play. Not only that, but there’s an opportunity to win – they have a lot of good pieces.
CBJ.com: What was one of the most enticing things, as you weighed your options, about playing in Columbus?
Gagner: Getting a chance to play a key role was a big thing for me. I had a chance to speak with management and the coaching staff, and they think my best hockey is still in front of me, which I agree with. They felt there was a good opportunity for me to get some pretty prime offensive minutes, and that’s something I was really looking for in my next team. It’s a great city with great fans, so there were many different things that led to making this decision.
CBJ.com: How was your initial conversation with John Tortorella?
Gagner: It was a good conversation. One thing about Torts is that he’s very honest and he lets you know where you stand right off the get-go, and he never lets you off the hook. I think, as as player, that’s what you like out of your coach; you want that open dialogue with him and he’s telling you like it is. You’re going to get that with Torts and it’s something I’m looking forward to.
CBJ.com: Do you know any of the players here, and have you heard from them yet?
Gagner: I do. I’ve known Cody Goloubef since I was about 10 years old. We grew up playing hockey together pretty much all the way, and he and I are really good friends. I’ve played some minor hockey tournaments with Cam Atkinson, and I’ve had the chance to meet a few of the guys over the years. From what I hear, it’s a good group of guys in Columbus and I'm looking forward to a great year with them.
CBJ.com: Is there something to be said for a new player coming in here who’s in a situation much like the team itself – being hungry and looking to bounce back?
Gagner: Absolutely. Without a doubt. From a personal standpoint, I’m as hungry as I’ve ever been. I’m motivated to have success, and coming to Columbus where everyone feels like last year was an underachieving year, I think it’s going to bode well. We’re a determined group and we’re looking forward to proving a lot of people wrong. It’s an exciting challenge for all of us.