Simon Gagne Adds Versatility, Experience To Struggling Bruins Offense

by NESN Staff

October 14, 2014

Simon GagneWILMINGTON, Mass. — The Boston Bruins have scored just four goals in four games this season. Now they hope someone who didn?t even play in the NHL last season can spark their offense.

The Bruins signed veteran winger Simon Gagne to a one-year, one-way contract Tuesday, and while the 34-year-old isn’t the long-term solution to Boston’s offensive woes, he does possess a few skills the team has lacked during its sluggish start.

Gagne has good quickness when healthy, an accurate shot, above-average offensive awareness and the ability to play the wall or on the point during the power play. Boston’s power play has converted on just two of its 12 opportunities so far.

So where will Gagne play in the B’s lineup?

“If I have to be the extra guy, on the fourth line or replace guys when it’s not going well or injuries, playing on the penalty kill, whatever it takes,” Gagne said. “I’m here to help the team win, and I’m really happy to have a chance to get back in the league on a good team. I’m open to everything. … I think I’m starting with (Daniel) Paille and (Ryan) Spooner (on Wednesday).”

Gagne was the fourth-line right winger alongside Spooner and Paille during Tuesday?s practice at Ristuccia Arena. Gagne is a better scorer than the younger forwards Bruins coach Claude Julien could put on this line, including Matt Fraser, Jordan Caron and Bobby Robins.

Gagne hasn’t played in the league since 2012-13, when he tallied 16 points (five goals, 11 assists) in 38 games with the Los Angeles Kings and Philadelphia Flyers. Training camp and preseason with the Bruins while on a tryout deal helped Gagne get his timing back and re-acclimate with the speed and physicality of the NHL game, and he said after Tuesday’s practice that he “started to feel better and better” as the preseason progressed.

?Everybody knows (Gagne has) been a good player in this league,? Julien said. ?He?s had some setbacks, we hope he can recapture what he had to, hopefully, the best level possible. He?s accepted to come here and accept whatever role we want to give him. When you?ve got that opportunity to get a guy like that, why not? He?s been loyal since Day 1, and I think he?s a good addition to our team.?

Gagne is a versatile player, so it’s possible he could move up to the first line alongside veterans David Krejci and Milan Lucic. The Bruins haven’t been able to replace first-line right winger Jarome Iginla after he departed in free agency over the summer to join the Colorado Avalanche, and while Gagne won’t match Iginla’s team-leading 30 goals from last season, he’s a better option than Seth Griffith, who skated on the top line in Monday’s 2-1 loss to the Avs.

Another option for Julien is to put Gagne with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron, similar to 2010-11 when veteran winger Mark Recchi played on the second line. Bergeron and Marchand have tremendous chemistry and typically help new wingers smoothly transition to their line. Reilly Smith then would move up to the first line, giving Krejci and Lucic a legitimate scoring threat at right wing again.

If that happens, this is how the Bruins’ lines would look:
Lucic–Krejci–Smith
Marchand–Bergeron–Gagne
Kelly–Soderberg–Eriksson
Paille–Spooner–Griffith

Overall, the Gagne signing is a low-risk/high-reward move by the Bruins. Not much else has worked regarding line changes, so why not bring in a veteran sniper with seven 20-plus goal seasons on his résumé? The salary-cap hit is just $600,000, and Gagne could end up being a valuable contributor if he’s able to score 10 to 15 goals and upgrade the Bruins? special teams.

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