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Paul Kukla Kukla's Korner

Published on Thursday, July 29, 2021

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Pieces Are Falling Into Place For The Wings

from Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press,

The Detroit Red Wings added a trusted veteran and a promising late bloomer to their lineup on the opening day of free agency.

Forward Sam Gagner’s one-year extension clocked in before the NHL's so-called "silly season" began, continuing a relationship that began at the 2019-20 trade deadline. After his acquisition from Edmonton, he became a leader in the locker room and a calming, versatile presence on the ice. Later, in the afternoon, forward Pius Suter was signed for two years and a total of $6.5 million. A former juniors teammate of Tyler Bertuzzi and Robby Fabbri, Suter didn’t reach the NHL full-time until he was 24, posting 27 points in 55 games last season. The Chicago Blackhawks didn’t tend the 5-feet-11, 176-pound Swiss native a qualifying offer, but there was a fit for him with the Wings, who are desperate to improve their offense.

Suter, a former Swiss League MVP who turned 25 in May, is expected to battle for a spot in the Wings' top six. Suter scored 14 goals last season, with five coming against the Wings. His first three of the season one game, Jan. 24 in a 6-2 Blackhawks win over the Wings in Chicago. After scoring 11 goals in Chicago's first 35 games, he only had three in their final 21. Suter wasn’t immediately available to media Wednesday. Gagner, who turns 32 in August, has shown how he can impact a rebuilding team.

“I think when you’re going through something like that as an organization, you need veteran players that can help lead the way, but you need to be able to play,” Gagner said. “I think I still have a lot of game left. I kind of found myself in a new role last year that I really enjoyed — being able to play on the penalty kill and the power play, kind of anywhere in the lineup, in different positions, is something that I would consider an asset.

“I’m looking forward to getting back there and helping the team grow in any way I can. We have a really good group, a great group of guys. I think we’re closer than people would expect. We’re a better team than people would expect.”

continued ($$$)


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