NHL Trade Deadline Primer: Brandon Hagel is intriguing, but risky

NHL Trade Deadline Rumors Brandon Hagel
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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).

 

Stars aligned with new coach DeBoer, Nill-constructed roster

Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
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DALLAS — General manager Jim Nill sensed things were coming together for the Dallas Stars even before the season started with new coach Pete DeBoer and a roster mixed with proven veterans, up-and-coming young players, and even a teenaged center.

At the NHL’s All-Star break, after 51 games together, these Stars are leading the Western Conference.

“Every year you start, you put a team together, and there’s always going to be question marks,” said Nill, in his 10th season as the Stars GM. “You have ideas how you think you’re going to come together, but there’s always the unknown. . This year has been one of those years where right from the start, you could just see everything was kind of jelling.”

The Stars (28-13-10, 66 points) have their trio of 2017 draft picks that just keep getting better: All-Star winger Jason Robertson, goaltender Jake Oettinger and defenseman Miro Heiskanen. The seemingly ageless Joe Pavelski, at 38 and already re-signed for next season, is on the high-scoring top line with Robertson and point-a-game winger Roope Hintz. Wyatt Johnston, their first-round pick in 2021 and half Pavelski’s age, has 13 goals.

There is also the resurgence of six-time All-Star forward Tyler Seguin two years after hip surgery and 33-year-old captain Jamie Benn, who already has more goals (19) than he did playing all 82 games last season.

The Stars have a plus-40 goal differential, which is second-best in the NHL. They are averaging 3.37 goals per game, more than a half-goal better than last season when they were the only team to make the playoffs after being outscored in the regular season. They are also allowing fewer goals, and have improved on power plays and penalty kills.

“Where we sit at this break, I think guys are happy with that,” Seguin said, before being asked the keys to the Stars leading the West and on pace for a 100-point season with their new coach.

“Our style, our team speed, our puck speed, being predictable. All the clichés, knowing where the puck’s going. Really how we play the five-man unit,” he said. “Our pace this year, it’s been a lot quicker. There’s been some solid depth scoring this year while we’ve got one of the best lines in hockey.”

The Stars went into the break on their only three-game losing streak of the season, all 3-2 overtime losses at home.

“Those aren’t real losses,” said DeBoer, who twice has gone to the Stanley Cup Final in his first season with a new team. “I’m happy where we’re at. I like how we’re playing.”

Plus, Dallas won’t have to worry in the playoffs about 3-on-3 hockey, which has been the only real stain on their season so far. Only one team has more than its 10 losses after regulation.

“We’ve played a lot of good hockey. We’ve made a lot of good strides in our game,” DeBoer said. “We still have another level we have to get to when we get back, but there are a lot of good things that have happened. They’ve worked to have us where we are right now in the standings. Good spot to be in.”

The Stars have 31 games left in the regular season. The first four after the break at home, like the last four before their week-long hiatus.

Robertson’s 33 goals rank sixth in the NHL, and the 23-year-old has the same number of assists while averaging 1.29 points a game even after he missed most of training camp before signing a four-year, $31 million contract. Pavelski has 48 points (14 goals, 34 assists) while playing every game, and Hintz 46 points (20 goals, 26 assists) in only 43 games.

Oettinger, who is 21-7 in regulation, has a .923 save percentage and 2.26 goals against average since signing his three-year, $12 million contract. That deal came after 223 saves in a seven-game playoff series against Calgary last May, capped by 64 in the series finale that went to overtime.

Nill said Robertson’s production has improved even with the league adjusting to the high-scoring forward, and that Oettinger is proving to be one of the league’s best goalies. But they are just part of what has been a tremendous team effort.

“They kind of had that mojo right from the start, and it was kind of this team’s got the right mix,” Nill said. “It’s come together well, and it’s shown in the standings. It’s been good to watch.”

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

Ilya Mikheyev
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.