The Chicago Blackhawks will look for more scoring depth after shipping goal scorer Artemi Panarin to the Columbus Blue Jackets to bring back two-way forward Brandon Saad back to Chicago.
One player the Blackhawks might pursue is soon-to-be unrestricted free agent center Sam Gagner. Both the Blackhawks and Gagner share a mutual interest, according to The Athletic’s Scott Powers.
Gagner could be an ideal addition to the Hawks for a couple of reasons. The 27-year-old would add depth to Chicago’s group of centers that currently includes Jonathan Toews, Artem Anisimov, Tanner Kero and Marcus Kruger, although Kruger is expected to be traded at some point during the offseason.
Gagner is also a semi-reliable goal scorer and tallied 18 goals and 50 total points for the Columbus Blue Jackets last season. He has 142 goals in 10 professional seasons.
Gagner is also an asset on the power play and could serve as a right-handed shot on the special teams unit. However, he doesn’t give Chicago much help in the faceoff dot, as he’s won only 45 percent of his draws during his career.
The Blackhawks probably won’t find a dynamic scorer like Panarin on the open market and if they do, they probably couldn’t afford him. But they can replace Panarin by committee while adding more depth pieces to a roster that featured seven players with at least 19 goals.
Chicago is currently $2 million over the NHL’s $75 million salary cap, but should have Marian Hossa and Kruger coming off the books soon.