Sam Gagner says Canucks have ‘a lot to prove’ this year

Vancouver Canucks GM Jim Benning joins Sportsnet 650 to discuss the Bo Horvat contract talks, adding veteran help during an obvious rebuild period, and what the team's expectations are heading into this season.

The Vancouver Canucks declared themselves a rebuilding team earlier this off-season, but that didn’t scare off veterans Michael Del Zotto and Sam Gagner from signing on in free agency.

Two of Vancouver’s newest Canucks joined hosts Perry Solkowski and Randip Janda on Sportsnet 650’s On Point in a joint appearance on Monday to talk about what swayed them to sign on the West Coast.

“Having the chance to speak with [head coach] Travis Green and just get a sense of the direction he feels the team is going and what kind of system and culture he wants to establish, it got me really excited,” said Gagner, who signed a three-year, $9.45-million contract with Vancouver on July 1. “I think there’s a group of young guys here who are knocking on the door and are going to be really good players and I think the guys who are veterans have a lot to prove.”

That list of young players includes promising defencemen Troy Stecher and Olli Juolevi and forwards Nikolay Goldobin, Jake Virtanen and Brock Boeser, to name a few.

The Canucks’ current dynamic is familiar to Gagner, who has been part of several rebuilding teams including the Oilers, Coyotes, and most recently the Blue Jackets, where he scored a career-high 18 goals and 50 points in 2016-17.

“I feel like it’s a situation like the one I went into in Columbus last year, young guys looking to prove themselves and older guys who feel like they didn’t have a great year last year and want to take another step forward,” he explained. “There’s a lot to prove for our entire group and it got me really excited, talking to everyone about it.”

Del Zotto, who signed a two-year, $6-million deal with the Canucks on July 1, shared a similar sense of excitement with his new (again) teammate when discussing his decision to sign in Vancouver and the opportunity they will both have to take on a leadership role.

“I had a chance to speak to the coach and his philosophy and how he wants to play the game is trending in the right direction, how today’s game is played, an up-style tempo, a lot of speed,” said Del Zotto, who was teammates with Gagner in Philadelphia in 2015-16. “I think for me, it’s just a great opportunity.”

“I think for both Sam and I, we’ve been through some ups and downs in our career, I think we have a lot to prove and a lot of leadership we can help out with the young guys,” said Del Zotto, who registered six goals and 18 points in 52 games last season. “Being able to teach them how to be a pro every single day and how to do the little things and help them come along the right way.”

Listen to the interview in its entirety here:

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