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Canucks owner 'wasn't happy' about burying Sam Gagner's contract in AHL

Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photo / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Vancouver Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini is not exactly pleased with some of the recent decisions the team's front office has made.

Canucks general manager Jim Benning signed forward Sam Gagner to a three-year, $9.45-million contract on July 1, 2017, on the heels of a career-high 50-point season. However, Gagner was cut by the Canucks at the end of training camp this year and is currently on loan with the AHL's Toronto Marlies.

Gagner is owed $3.5 million in base salary this year, and $3.2 million next season, regardless of whether he's playing in the NHL or the AHL. Deciding to leave him off the team's 23-man roster led to an uncomfortable phone call between Benning and his boss.

"It was a hard conversation," Benning told Sportsnet's Iain MacIntyre. "I tried to explain to him that we had signed Sam but we felt younger players had outperformed him at camp. I was talking about (Nikolay) Goldobin, mostly. We had to make a hard decision on that, and it was hard to have to call him up and explain it. But at the end of the conversation he understood. That was the hardest call I've had to make to him."

Aquilini was rather candid with his reaction to the surprising news.

"When they made that decision to put Sam in the minors, when they told me, I wasn't happy about it," Aquilini said. "I mean, it's $3 million (per season). It's crazy, but that's what was necessary."

Gagner, 29, tallied 31 points in 74 games with the Canucks last season.

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