Blackhawks rumors 2016: Chicago ‘eyed’ Sam Gagner over the summer

Mostly just bringing this up because it would’ve been a solid signing.

I’m not sure this one really qualifies as a rumor that’ll mean much going forward, but the Blackhawks had interest in signing forward Sam Gagner as a free agent over the summer, according to the latest 30 Thoughts column from Elliotte Friedman. As he says in there — at least to Jackets writers — we should all stay calm, but I thought it was an interesting blurb nonetheless.

Gagner signed with the Blue Jackets for just $650,000 on a one-year deal near the end of the offseason, right when the Blackhawks were still in hot pursuit of Jimmy Vesey. There were some rumblings about other possibilities at the time, but as things dragged out, it became clear Chicago’s primary focus was signing Vesey.

That didn’t work out, so the Blackhawks opted to commit to young players already in house and follow through on the plan you’ve seen in motion throughout this season.

With that said, Gagner would’ve been a pretty useful signing for a team that rolls out Dennis Rasmussen, Richard Panik, and Jordin Tootoo frequently. He also would’ve been cheaper than Tootoo, who inked a $750,000 deal with the Blackhawks, reportedly at the behest of some veterans on the team.

Gagner’s star has fallen a bit, but it’s worth remembering that from 2007-08 through 2014-15, he averaged 42 points per season. Now, that was mostly on bad teams, but he regularly put up decent numbers throughout his early 20s. That’s continued this season, where Gagner has put up seven goals and five assists in 19 games with Columbus.

The production is far from eye-popping, but it’s more than the Hawks have gotten from Panik. He’s also averaging a very impressive 9.9 shots on goal per 60 minutes during 5-on-5 play, which is above his career levels but helps indicate his production at even strength may be sustainable to a degree.

And while he wouldn’t help the Blackhawks’ faceoff woes, another guy capable of playing in the middle wouldn’t hurt given the growing pains we’ve seen from Nick Schmaltz and Vincent Hinostroza in that role.

This is all pretty much just a thought exercise given that Gagner is a valuable contributor on a breakout Columbus team now, though. I just couldn’t help but read that blurb and wonder if the Blackhawks missed out on the chance at some good extra depth this season at an almost negligible cost.