The Tampa Bay Lightning loaded up for another Stanley Cup run ahead of this year’s NHL trade deadline, acquiring forward Brandon Hagel from the Chicago Blackhawks.
In exchange for Hagel, the Blackhawks received first-round picks in both 2023 and 2024, along with forwards Boris Katchouk and Taylor Raddysh, while the Lightning also acquired fourth-round picks in 2022 and 2024. Both of the first-round picks heading to Chicago are top-10 protected.
Let’s take a look at how the trade breaks down for each team.
Blackhawks Brandon Hagel trade to the Lightning grades
While it’s hard to question the return the Blackhawks got back, it’s more of a matter of whether it was really the right move to move Hagel.
The winger is still just 23 years old and could’ve been with the team for a long time. He had scored 21 goals and 37 points in 55 games with the Blackhawks, a pace of 31 goals and 55 points per 82 games. While the team may be set to sell off pieces and build for the future (even though they made wildly counterproductive moves last offseason), Hagel could have close to a decade of good hockey in him, based on his age.
That said, it also comes down to how high Hagel’s ceiling is – and there are signs pointing to the fact that he may not be able to sustain the same level of production (which we’ll get into later). If Chicago could get this return for him, he could be the right move to capitalize while his value is high.
Even though the picks are top-10 protected, the fact they’re coming a year and two years down the line opens up possibilities for Chicago. While it’s unlikely the Lightning are going to slip and miss the playoffs, the possibility of getting two more first-round picks as early as 11th overall gives this trade huge upside. Again, it’s unlikely, but Chicago desperately needs more young talent (which was what made the Seth Jones trade so nonsensical) and two first-round picks are a great place to start.
Then in terms of Katchouk and Raddysh, each is a former second-round pick born in the same year as Hagel and have some upside. Katchouk only scored two goals and six points in 38 games with the Lightning but did manage more than a point-per-game with the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch last season. Raddysh had five goals and 12 points in 53 games with Tampa Bay this year and was also a point-per-game player with Syracuse last season.
Even if the plan wasn’t to trade Hagel, this return makes it a worthwhile move for the Blackhawks, getting back two great picks and two young forwards.
Tampa Bay Lightning
This is a pretty huge price to pay for Hagel.
On one hand, Hagel is still very young and as mentioned above, has produced very well with Chicago this season. He should be a great fit on the Lightning’s third line.
Another key benefit is that he’s under contract until 2024 at just a $1.5 million cap hit. If he was able to be a 50-point forward for the next three seasons at that price, it’s a huge benefit for the Lightning.
On the other hand, there are some issues. At this point, the Lightning have so few picks and prospects left that they don’t have a ton of assets to trade going forward. As they try to continue making Cup runs over the next few years, they’ll fall victim to more salary cap casualties and won’t have enough future assets to replace them.
So to package two first rounders and two young players all in the same trade seems like a questionable decision. Then it also comes down to the player they were willing to package them all for.
Sure, Hagel’s production has been great this year, but it’s likely unsustainable. Hagel had a ridiculous shooting percentage with the Blackhawks this season, at 22.3 per cent, which was more than twice as high as his shooting percentage last season. For reference, if Hagel was shooting even around 12 per cent this season, he’d still only have 11 goals and would be on pace for just 16 goals and 40 points per 82 games, which is a lot closer to his 2020-21 production .
So this is really going to come down to what Hagel can be for the Lightning. While it’s understandable the Lightning are just aiming to win now and did avoid just adding a rental, they also moved a lot of all their remaining future assets all for a single player.
It’s tough to say how this trade is going to turn out. Hagel could end up working out great for the Lightning at a low cap hit and the Blackhawks may only get two very late first-round picks and two players who don’t end up sticking around as long-term pieces.
There’s also the chance Hagel doesn’t provide the value the Lightning are hoping for, while either Raddysh and/or Katchouk end up fitting really well with the Blackhawks and the team also gets two great players with their first-round picks.
That said, this move seems to have a lot of potential for the Blackhawks and looks like more of a gamble for the Lightning.