Toronto – Sam Gagner is back in the NHL and feeling great.
Playing an important role with the Vancouver Canucks – First-Line Minutes, No. 1 Power Play – Following a surprise bondage to the miners before the time, his family had also been reunited on the West Coast.
The 29-year-old forward was all smiles in the team's skills competition earlier this month, accompanied by one of his two young children wearing a blue-89-year-old father's blue.
Although the cannons were struggling, Gagner had a target and two assists, and was constantly disabled late in games.
There was a reason for optimism.
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A few days later, however, Gagner got his second professional hit in two months when the Cunniors returned to the Ahl Toronto Marlies, resuming their loan agreement.
"I liked how I was in Vancouver – that's a surprise part," he said after his first game back with the marlies over the weekend. "Both (Kanyx GM Jim Benning and head coach Travis Green) did the same thing. They thought I was playing well.
"It's hard to take."
A veteran of 770 NHL games heading in this season, Gagner was demoted despite more than 18 minutes a night during that two-week stretch.
His average of 3:14 on the power game was tied with dr horde with Bo Horvat, trailing only Brock Boeser and Elias Pettersson. Gagner also has the best highway shot differential at 58.21 per cent, while his other advanced metrics suggest he was unlucky to have noticed more often.
It is not enough to keep him up with the big club.
"We did not find wins," Gagner said. "But that stunt drove it home for me that I can play at that level and be effective."
He signed a three-year, It. $ 9.45 million contract in free agency two sums back, choosing the cannons over a number of other suits – Gager is lending to the marlies in October instead of being assigned to Vancouver's member in Utica, NY, after clearing waivers.
And while Gagner, who has seven goals and eight assists in 15 games with Toronto before getting recalled on November 18, he never asked for a trade, a move would clearly be received at this point.
"I want a nail opportunity," said Gagner, whose right are maintained by the Kanyx. "I'm like it in Vancouver, but it does not really seem like I'm in their plans.
"I have proved that I belong."
Gagner, which makes $ 3.5 million this season no matter where he plays, has 153 goals and 283 assists in parts of 12 NHL campaigns.
The Sixth Battle of the 2007 Drawing by Edmonton, he told the Canals, the reason for this demo was simple – unlike some other veterans on the roster, he did not have to clear the second time.
In a game play with a rebuilding franchise, Gagner scotted the question when asked if he was regretting signing in Vancouver after his 50-point time with Columbus in 2016-17.
"I'm bouncing around," said Gagner, which many Kanaxs have a solid 2017-18 with only 10 goals and 21 assists. "They seemed to be excited about me there, that's the surprising part of the same coach and management.
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Maple Leafs Center John Tawares, who grew up with Gagner in the suburbs of West Toronto, said he was surprised to see his close friend back in the miners.
"It's a great test of his character and his will to dig in," said Tawares, who spoke with Gagner after he was demoted. "I always tell him, he's someone for me to look up, because I'm not in this situation and I can not imagine how hard it is."
Marlies head coach Sheldon Kepe said the way Gagner had dealt with the disaster is a lesson to be young players.
"You have to make the best of it," said Kef. "He was kicked off and got back to work."
"His career is what all of us wish we could have," Marles Veteran Center Chris Muller added. "He is not down here that it is negative or insane in the world. His presence, his leadership, is going to take a long way as far as showing the kids what it is like a good pro.
"I'm not familiar with the Canal Zone, but I know he's a hell of a hockey player and deserves to be there."
That's why Gagner is hoping, especially with his wife and children staying in Vancouver since September.
"You go from playing first-line minutes and play first night with you and your family and Christmas is around the corner," he said. "The next day you're going back to the miners – definitely a shock.
"You just keep pushing forward and hopefully there's another opportunity."
Or with the cannons or elsewhere.