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Blackhawks rumors 2017: Sam Gagner, Chicago have 'mutual interest,' per report

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The 27-year-old center scored 18 goals and 50 points last season with Columbus.

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NHL: Winnipeg Jets at Columbus Blue Jackets Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Blackhawks and forward Sam Gagner, a pending unrestricted free agent, have “mutual interest” in each other, reports The Athletic’s Scott Powers.

Gagner, 27, scored 18 goals and 50 points in 81 games for the Columbus Blue Jackets last season. He played a key role on Columbus’ power play with six goals and 15 points.

Gagner played on a one-year, $650,000 contract last season with Columbus. He’s also suited up for Edmonton, Arizona and Philadelphia in his career.

Adding Gagner to the lineup would give the Hawks great depth. Currently, Jonathan Toews, Artem Anisimov and Tanner Kero are expected to be Chicago’s top three centers. With Gagner in the mix, Kero would move down to the fourth line.

Chicago’s fourth-line center role could currently be occupied by a number of players including, John Hayden, Vinnie Hinostroza or recently-acquired Laurent Dauphin, who played with the Arizona Coyotes and their AHL affiliate in Tucson last season. Hinostroza is the most experienced of the trio having played 49 games in Chicago. The 23-year-old recorded six goals and 14 points in that span. Hayden, however, joined Chicago after his senior season at Yale. Hayden had one goal and three assists in 12 games. Both Hinostroza and Hayden played in one playoff game.

Matthew Highmore, who signed a three-year entry-level deal with Chicago in March, could also be in the hunt for a roster spot. The 21-year-old helped lead the Saint John Sea Dogs to a Quebec Major Junior Hockey League title last season with 89 points (34 goals, 55 assists). He added 24 points (six goals, 18 assists) in 18 postseason contests.

Chicago is reportedly trying to trade Marcus Kruger, also 27, who has won two Stanley Cups with the Hawks. Kruger carries a $3.08 million salary cap hit, which if traded would free up some cash for the Hawks to sign Gagner.