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Gagner Eager for Fresh Start, More Responsibility with Coyotes

by Dave Vest / Arizona Coyotes

GLENDALE – It took the Coyotes just about 48 hours to fill the void at center created when the team opted to buy out Mike Ribeiro’s contract on Friday before the NHL Entry Draft began in Philadelphia.

On Sunday night, General Manager Don Maloney pulled the trigger on a trade with Tampa Bay for crafty center Sam Gagner - and rugged winger B.J. Crombeen - in exchange for a sixth-round draft pick in 2015.

"We got what we wanted and what we were searching for: a young, skilled center iceman," Maloney said of Gagner, who was traded twice on Sunday – first from Edmonton to Tampa Bay and then to Arizona less than two hours later. "We got a young player who fits into what we're trying to do, and at the right price."

Sam Gagner. Photo by Getty Images.

Gagner, who was the sixth overall pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, said he wasn’t surprised he and the Oilers parted ways after seven non-playoff seasons.

"I feel like my name has been in trade rumors for a long time now, and you have to expect things to happen when the team doesn't do well," Gagner said. "It’s obviously been a tough last few years there, but I think it's just something that happens. There's going to be change when things don't go well. I expected that at some point that I might be part of it."

Gagner notched 101 goals and 194 assists for the Oilers. His NHL resume includes a franchise-tying eight-point game (four goals/ four assists) vs. Chicago on Feb. 2, 2012.

"He's flashed some real offensive upside and talent," Maloney said. "It's like any top player — you have to continue to evolve to bring it every night, and that's what we need from him... He has the intelligence, character and skill set we were looking for and we believe he has further growth in his game."

Gagner, 24, has played 481 NHL games but none in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He’s eager for new surroundings in Arizona and to improve on his 10-goal performance last season in 67 games.

"I didn’t have a great year last year and I want to have a bounce-back year,” he said. “Obviously, I’m not happy with the way things went. I hold myself to a lot higher standard than that. I’m excited for my opportunity in Arizona and to get a fresh start, and I think it’s going to be good for me. "

Sam Gagner - after his eight-point game in 2012. Photo by Getty Images.

The Coyotes will rely on Gagner to center one of their top two lines. He’s ready for that challenge, and the pressure that will accompany it.

"I’ve always loved that, " Gagner said. "I feel like I thrive under responsibility. Any time in my career I’ve been handed extra responsibility I feel I’ve done a good job of handling that. I really enjoy added pressure and responsibility. I’m excited about that … Arizona is a team that has been knocking on the doorstep for a while and I just know from experience from playing against them that they are a team that plays hard and plays the right way, and it’s exciting for me to get a chance to play on a team like that."

Gagner is known for being a stand-up guy who is always willing to face the media during good times and bad.

Longtime Edmonton Journal columnist Jim Matheson praised Gagner for that in his column regarding the trade on Sunday.

Of Gagner, he wrote: "He’s on my top 10 all-time Oilers to deal with, and I’ve been covering them for 35 years."

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