NHL Trade Deadline Primer: Brandon Hagel is intriguing, but risky
The 2022 NHL Trade Deadline is Monday, March 21 at 3 p.m. ET. As we get closer to the deadline we will take a look at some individual players who could be on the move. We continue today with Chicago Blackhawks forward Brandon Hagel.
There have not been many bright spots for the Chicago Blackhawks this season, but Brandon Hagel has definitely been one of them on the ice. The 23-year-old forward is having a breakout year of sorts in Chicago, scoring 17 goals (and 30 total points) in his first 48 games this season. That production, combined with Chicago’s awful year in the standings, has made him a potential trade chip ahead of the deadline.
Given the way new general manager Kyle Davidson talked on Tuesday it sounds like he is envisioning a rebuild for this team, while the words “three,” “five,” and “years” kept getting thrown around. That should make pretty much every player on the roster -- including the core players -- potential trade chips at some point in the not-too-distant future.
Hagel might be one of the more intriguing options because he is still young (23), under contract for two more years, signed to an incredibly team-friendly contract ($1.5 million salary cap per season), and has been very productive this season.
So why trade all of that right now?
Because his trade value may never be higher than it is right now given his production and the cost certainty his contract brings.
The red flag, though, is that we do not really know what his future production will look like. A significant portion of his offense right now is being driven by a 21.3 percent shooting percentage. He does not produce a lot of shots on goal (less than two per game) while a lot of his underlying shot metrics (shot attempts, expected goals, scoring chances) rank fairly low around the league. What happens when (and it is a matter of when, not if) that shooting percentage drops back to a normal level and if his shot generation remains low? Do you still value him as highly?
That is not to say he does bring other value beyond his offense, but his offense is a big reason teams will be so willing to part with a significant trade package for him. You better be sure he can duplicate that production in the future to make it all worth it.
What the return might look like
Not cheap! It is all about the contract. Any team that trades for Hagel knows that it has him under contract for another two years at a very, very, very, very affordable salary cap number. Even when that contract ends he will still be under team control as a restricted free agent. When a player is involved in a trade it is not just the player themselves and their production that is being traded. It is also their age, their contract, and all of those other variables that impact their value. Those variables significantly boost Hagel’s value.
The obvious comparable here might be when the New Jersey Devils traded Blake Coleman a couple of years ago to Tampa Bay. Coleman was under contract for another full season, signed very cheaply, and having an excellent year. New Jersey got a first-round pick and a prospect that was picked in the first round just one year prior. Coleman is a better overall player, but it is definitely a decent comparable. That sort of price (first-round pick and a good prospect) might be what it takes to get Chicago to give him away in a trade.
The most logical landing spots
• Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild
Do you know who makes sense here? Top Stanley Cup contenders looking to go all in but do not have a ton of salary cap space to work with. We know Tampa Bay is not afraid to go all in for players like Hagel, while Florida and Toronto could really round out already deep forward lineups with Hagel.
The Kings’ rebuild is ahead of schedule and Hagel is somebody that could theoretically fit in both long-term and short-term.
Would the Wild have interest? They could probably use a little bit of a shakeup right now, and given their salary cap situation in the coming seasons adding a potentially productive player with a low salary cap hit could be enticing to them.
Wild Card team: Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins should absolutely be buyers, and they could use another winger. There seems to be a little bit of hesitancy on the part of the new front office to continue trading away future assets for rentals, but would a younger player, still under contract, and under contract for a cheap price be a nice middle ground to satisfy what should be an “all in” mindset this season, while also keeping an eye on the future? Maybe the Penguins could set their sights higher than Hagel, but it is just an idea.
Spot I want to see just for fun: Detroit Red Wings
A non-playoff team that is very close to being a playoff team in the very near future. Consider it a “hockey trade” and not necessarily a “buy and sell” situation. A team like Detroit would probably want to make this a conditional first-round pick in the event of a draft lottery win, but I like the idea of teams being aggressive when they have a chance to add to their roster whenever they can.
NHL Trade Deadline prediction
Florida would be a good fit, but the Panthers do not have a first or second round pick this season and their farm system is not the deepest, so it does not seem like a great fit for Chicago. So another Atlantic Division contender, Toronto, pays the first-round pick and prospect price to add more depth. Toronto already added a defenseman, and while it might want a goalie upgrade, there are slim pickings at that position. The pressure is on to win this season and Hagel would just add a little more depth at forward, while also carrying a small salary cap hit (which is important for a team with Toronto’s salary cap structure).