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Numbers Game: Kings Sign Gagne

Scott Cullen
7/7/2011 1:50:04 PM
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Lost in the rush of first few days of free agent deals, the Los Angeles Kings brought in a familiar face, at least to those with Philadelphia ties.

Numbers Game looks at the Simon Gagne signing.

The Kings Get: LW Simon Gagne.

Gagne, 31, has a better track record as a goal-scorer than most others in this summer's free agent class, having scored 276 in his 727-game NHL career, four times scoring at least 30, seven times scoring at least 20.

However, Gagne has been limited to 17 goals in each of the last two seasons and injuries have been a more regular occurrence -- he's missed 103 regular season games over the last four seasons, many due to concussions, but also foot and groin injuries have taken their toll.

In Los Angeles, Gagne will be re-united with Mike Richards, with whom he played primarily in his last two seasons with the Flyers (2008-2009 and 2009-2010) on the Kings' version of Philadelphia West.

Gagne, Richards and Justin Williams all got started in the Flyers organization, which also was a stopping point for the Kings' braintrust, including head coach Terry Murray, GM Dean Lombardi and Assistant GM Ron Hextall.

A fresh start may be good for Gagne, who struggled last season in Tampa Bay. His shot differential (5-on-5, per 60 minutes, www.behindthenet.ca) was worst among Lightning forwards and his 2.44 shots on goal per game was his lowest rate since his rookie season of 1999-2000.

Gagne's terrible start -- no points and minus-8 in the first six games before getting hurt -- prevented him from getting into a good rhythm offensively or even earning significant ice time until the second half of the season.  When he finally started playing more than 17 minutes per game, Gagne finished strong, with 27 points in his last 30 games before adding 12 points and a plus-6 rating in 15 playoff games.

While Gagne only managed 40 points for Tampa Bay last season, his absence will need to be accounted for, especially since the Lightning aren't overrun with secondary scoring options.

If Steve Downie isn't considered ready for a role in the top six, then the Lightning will need to look at other options because it's likely too soon to put prospects Carter Ashton or Brett Connolly in a position with such expectations.

It's never easy to predict health, let alone for a player that has endured his share of injuries recently, but if Gagne is healthy, there's a good chance that he scores 20 goals for the Kings, with a fair possibility of 30, in one of the next two seasons.

Signed for two years at a total of $7-million, Gagne's price reflects that injury history, but offers the Kings a chance at some rewarding offensive upside at a reasonable cost.

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.




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