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The Detroit Red Wings were officially eliminated from Stanley Cup Playoff contention earlier this week, though they may as well have been weeks ago.
Despite having been in the Wild Card race for the first few months of the season, the wheels completely fell off after the calendar turned to February. But the emergence of rookies Lucas Raymond and Moritz Seider have given the fans hope for better days ahead.
One valuable veteran presence on the team is forward Sam Gagner, who recently recorded his 500th career point in last week's win over the Winnipeg Jets. And he certainly relishes his role as being a figure for the younger players to look up to and to learn from.
“Certainly, I’ve really enjoyed my time here,” Gagner said. “I’ve liked that the last couple of years I’ve had a chance to kind of settle into my role and play some important minutes. Being a leader is something I take a lot of pride and responsibility in, trying to help this young group grow. It’s been a lot of fun for me."
Of course, despite being a pending free-agent, Gagner would prefer to continue his career in the Motor City, and given his play, don't be surprised to see GM Steve Yzerman offer him a contract extension.
“My family has been really happy, too, not having to move around. My wife’s kind of a pro mover at this point, but she’d prefer not to do it every year, so that part of it has been good.”
And for Gagner, he believes that the team can once again be participants in the postseason next year.
“I think the way we’re building, there’s a chance we’re a playoff team next year,” Gagner said. “I like the fact that I’ve been a part of helping this team grow. I’d like to be around for when it turns and be a part of helping that. I think playing in this market, where hockey matters, and there’s a rich history, it’s a great team to play for and a great group of guys and hopefully I can be around for a little bit longer.”