Player evaluation: Gagne
This season: 34 games, 7 goals, 10 assists, minus-1 rating.
The good: Gagne started the season essentially as promised. After the Kings were unable to land Brad Richards in free agency, they turned quickly to Gagne, a four-time 30-goal scorer and two-time 40-goal scorer who had previous familiarity with Mike Richards and Justin Williams. Gagne got off to a solid start, with three goals in his first five games and seven goals in his first 17 games. After his late-December concussion, Gagne could have packed it in for the season, but he worked hard to get back into the lineup, and gave his teammates an emotional boost when he returned to the ice in the Stanley Cup Finals.
The bad: Last summer, the risk involved in signing Gagne was clear. He had a history of concussions, and the recent past has taught everyone that a player with previous concussions is more likely to have another one. Gagne left the lineup on Dec. 26 because of a hit to the head and didn’t return until early June. That left a big hole among the Kings’ top-six forwards. Even before the injury though, Gagne’s numbers had fallen off after a solid start. Gagne had seven goals in his first 17 games, but in his next 17 games, he totaled zero goals and four assists. Those are not top-six numbers.
Going forward: Gagne has one year remaining on his contract. At points during his concussion recovery, Gagne talked in general about the end of his career, but by all accounts, he’s going to give it a try in 2012-13. Gagne recently had a surgical procedure done on his neck, and initial reports indicated that he was greatly encouraged by an increase of mobility in his neck. If Gagne is healthy, he will challenge Dustin Penner for the second-line left-wing spot. Based on last season, though, the Kings would be wise to write Gagne’s name in pencil, not ink.