Sam Gagner, who is playing for Columbus and having one his best seasons, conceded it was "tough to get into a flow" when he played with the Flyers last year because he was in and out of the lineup.
But he has no hard feelings toward the Flyers.
"It didn't really work out, but I didn't produce last year," Gagner, 27, said before scoring his 18th goal, equaling a career high, in the Blue Jackets' 5-3 win over the Flyers on Monday night. "It's hard to be upset about it or to hold any grudges. Regardless of how last year went, in terms of opportunity early on, you still have to find a way to produce and I didn't here. I'm happy with the way things worked out."
Gagner, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2007 draft, had eight goals and 16 points in 53 games with the Flyers last year, his only season with the team. The early part of last season included benchings, a concussion that sidelined him for 11 games, and a cap-related, nine-game demotion to the AHL's Phantoms.
Gagner has 18 goals and 47 points for the Blue Jackets, and lately has been centering Scott Hartnell and rookie Oliver Bjorkstrand on the team's hottest line.
"It's been a really good year," he said. "I kind of carved out a role and we're a really good team. It's the first time in my career I'm on a team that's chasing for first in the league, so it's been an exciting challenge for me."
Last summer, no NHL team offered Gagner a free-agent contract until August. That's when Gagner signed a one-year $650,000 deal with Columbus.
Columbus coach John Tortorella said he got a hungry player.
"Everybody knows about his skill level," Tortorella said. "The thing I liked about the signing of Sam was it's always good to have a player who knows he's almost out of the league and maybe (there's) not many more chances at it."
Tortorella said it's always good to get a player with a "show-me attitude at that time of his career. He's been a big part of our offense."
"I still believed in my ability and what I was able to bring to the table," Gagner said. "I worked really hard this summer - I always work hard - but it was one of those summers where going into the season, I knew there was a lot on the line. I just felt if I got an opportunity to play some important minutes and play with some offensive players, I could get the job done."
Gagner, who has played center and wing this season, ended a 30-game goal drought March 4. He enters Monday's game on a five-game point streak (three goals, four assists).
As for last season, "it's tough to get into a flow early on when you're in and out of the lineup," he said. "This year, I got a lot of responsibility right away in terms of trying to help the power play and playing some important minutes late in games. You thrive on responsibility and I think you just get confidence from that."
Hartnell, another former Flyer, likes having Gagner as his centerman.
"Sam's a real heads-up playmaker, and you always have to be ready for the puck, which is great," said Hartnell, who spent Monday having dinner with his best friend, former Flyer Kimmo Timonen, and his wife. "One thing he's worked on, especially lately, is his D-zone play, and getting Torts to trust us a little bit more out there. We've had some great shifts."
Breakaways. Flyers winger Roman Lyubimov will replace Nick Cousins, who has one goal in his last 20 games.....Hartnell was traded from the Flyers in 2015 but he still donates money to pay for 10 youngsters from the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Association to attend a Minnesota camp each summer...Jordan Weal (plus-4) and Radko Gudas (plus-1) are the Flyers' only "plus" players. Columbus has 20 "plus" players.