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After Long Layoff, Simon Gagne Finds a Home with Boston

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins - For Simon Gagne, it all started with a chat with Patrice Bergeron.

They were at home in Quebec in July, hosting their annual Pro-Am Gagne-Bergeron charity hockey game.

Gagne had been training. He was in good shape. He wanted to return to the NHL.

With a year out of action, a contract would not make sense for NHL teams. He wasn't waiting for a contract. But he was hoping for a tryout.

“I’ll see Peter in the next couple weeks and talk to him about you,” Bergeron told his friend, knowing full well his GM would be the one making the decision on whether to reach out to Gagne or not.

"I just mentioned it to Peter that he was there, available and wanted to play and that was it," Bergeron said. "I definitely didn't make the decision, but I just told him that he looked good on the ice and the rest was up to management and them to make a decision."

As it turned out, Chiarelli called Gagne's agent. Gagne spoke with Julien.

"Things went really good from that point on," Gagne recounted. "A couple days after that, I had the tryout contract on my table and I signed it right away."

And a couple of months after that, the winger earned his one-year contract with the Bruins a week into the 2014-15 season.

The deal, coming with a $600,000 cap figure, was announced on Tuesday morning, before the Black and Gold hit the road for a three-game road trip through Detroit, Montreal and Buffalo. Gagne had been skating with the club since informal practices began in early September. He was patient, and worked on improving every day.

"I had a good feeling, for whatever reason, since I spoke with Claude this summer," Gagne said after the contract was announced. "I had a really good conversation with him. I knew I had to put myself in a good position to come here in good shape and show a flash of what I can bring."

It would be unrealistic for Gagne to come in and pick up where he left off, but he still needed to shake off the rust quickly and show progress. He had to earn his spot, just like any young player from Providence being given a shot.

"I felt like the last couple games of the preseason I started to feel better and better and from that point on - I don’t know if the start of the season changed something - but I had a good feeling," Gagne added.

"Even after camp when I spoke with Peter before we went to Vermont with the team, I had a really good conversation with him. I’m always a positive guy, so I stayed positive the whole time. Finally, I’m really happy that it happened late [Monday] night."

Gagne brings versatility to the Black and Gold. He's expected to play on the fourth line right wing with Daniel Paille and Ryan Spooner to start the season. He can play up and down the lineup. He's played on the power play and penalty kill his entire career.

"My conversation with Peter was, 'whatever it takes'," said Gagne. "And I'll be whatever- if I have to be the extra guy, on the fourth line or a guy who will replace some guys when things aren't going well, or injuries, play on the PK, power play, whatever it takes, I'm here to help the team win and I'm really happy I have a chance to get back to the league with a good team."

"So I'm open to everything."

Gagne's adaptability is attractive to the Bruins, but there's something he brings that's at the top of the list.

"Experience is number one," said Julien. "Everyone knows he's a good player in this league and he's had some setbacks, so we hope that he'll be able to recapture what he had to hopefully the best level possible."

"He's accepted to come here and accept whatever role we want to give him, so when you've got that opportunity to get a guy like that, why not? He's been loyal since day one and I think he's a good addition to our team."

Gagne is a Stanley Cup Champion, Olympic Gold Medalist and a two-time NHL All-Star.

He brought 799 games of NHL experience to the Bruins, with 288 career pals and 309 assists, ever since his first season with Philadelphia in 1999-2000. He was twice a 40-goal scorer with the Flyers.

He spent 10 seasons in Philadelphia, before latching on with the Tampa Bay Lightning and LA Kings, where he won the Cup in 2012.

He has 109 playoff games (and 37 postseason goals) in his repertoire.

As a Flyer, he forced Game 7 in the 2004 Eastern Conference Final. He put up four goals in four playoff games against the Bruins in 2010, as Philadelphia made its historic comeback to erase a 3-0 series deficit, and continue on to the Final against Chicago.

"That's good news," said David Krejci, upon hearing that Gagne was signed. "He's a good player and he's been in the league a long time, so he's got experience, and he can put the puck in the net."

The 34-year-old Gagne wished he could have used that skill set last season as well.

He wanted to play during the 2013-14 season. He was expecting to get a contract from Philadelphia as an unrestricted free agent, but it didn't pan out.

He could have latched on with a team in December, but it wasn't making sense. So, with all of the injures he had been through the past few years, he decided to rest his body, and it responded.

In two seasons from 2011-13, Gagne only played 72 regular season games, along with four playoff games, because of injury issues, mostly dealing with neck problems and concussions.

In 2011-12 with LA, he missed 47 regular season games and 14 playoff games due to injury before returning in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final, and winning the Cup.

It hasn't been an easy road back for the vet, but he's happy that road has led him to Boston.

"It's a start, you know. That was my goal - to get another chance, another shot, to get a foot into the NHL again," Gagne said. "And that was a first step, coming here at camp and now getting a contract was a second step and now it's proving myself not only to the league but proving to myself that I'm still capable of playing in this league."

"It's all about having fun with the game again and it's something I maybe lost last year…but now I feel like it's back and I'm enjoying my time here, having some fun with the guys here."

"Who know long it goes?" said Gagne. "And if it goes well, I'll keep playing."

Gagne first got his foot into the NHL in 1999, when a 14-year-old Bergeron was watching. Now, he's gotten himself back in.

"Definitely a guy that I looked up to when I was younger," Bergeron said during training camp, when Gagne's future was uncertain. "He made it to the League, he's from Quebec City as well, and he made it when he was 19 and I'm a little younger than him, so I looked up to him a little bit when he was playing junior hockey, but also when he made it in Philly."

"You're always happy and proud of people from your hometown who do well, so I'm happy he found a spot here - hopefully he can show good things and maybe can stick around."

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