Breaking Down the Carl Hagelin Acquisition

It’s now obvious that Pittsburgh Penguins’ GM Jim Rutherford doesn’t sleep. Apparently, neither does Ducks’ GM Bob Murray. The two pulled off a trade last night, which was finalized in the hours after the Penguins lost in OT to the Tampa Bay Lightning, which sent David Perron and depth defenseman Adam Clendening to Anaheim in exchange for Carl Hagelin. The move is hardly a blockbuster, but rather a deal that means new scenery for two struggling talents.

In the simplest terms possible, Perron hasn’t been very good in Pittsburgh. At least, he hasn’t been very productive. Perron has found a niche with Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel throughout this season as a player that hits the dirty areas and drives possession but his scoring touch has all but disappeared. After being acquired last season from the Edmonton Oilers, he netted nine goals in his first 16 games. Since, he has been very underwhelming and it was clear that the Penguins were growing increasingly frustrated with him. Clendening, for whatever reason, couldn’t break the Penguins lineup. He made quite a few mistakes in his small amount of ice time but also showed the ability to move the puck and make plays in the offensive zone. Something the Penguins needed in a big way prior to acquiring Trevor Daley.

Carl Hagelin Adds Speed and Familiarity

Most of the Pittsburgh Penguins faithful will remember Hagelin from his days with the Rangers. In last season’s first-round playoff matchup, the Rangers gave Pittsburgh fits with their speed and Hagelin was a major reason for that. Most will also remember this goal, which eliminated the Penguins from post-season contention.

Mike Sullivan, head coach of the Penguins, was an assistant with the Rangers a few seasons ago and is a big fan of Hagelin’s work. He seems to be a better fit in Sullivan’s system than he was in Anaheim, mainly due to his ability to play fast and his north/south style of game. His game reminds me a bit of a younger Pascal Dupuis, which could bode very well for Pittsburgh. However, this isn’t a sure thing by any means.

Is Hagelin an Upgrade for the Pittsburgh Penguins?

This deal doesn’t strike me as looking for a clear upgrade over Perron, but rather a chance for both players to find a fit elsewhere. Hagelin has recorded only four goals and 12 total points through 43 games with Anaheim this season. Considering Perron’s spot in the top-six, Hagelin will likely get a chance to assume that same role. He’s a player that I can see finding his way with someone like Sidney Crosby, who will provide the type of game that Hagelin can excel at. From the perspective of underlying numbers, both players are very similar as of late.

The toughest part of this deal for the Penguins is that Hagelin carries an annual salary cap of $4 million and is signed for an additional three years past this season. While Perron’s salary of $3.8 million was similar and he may not have worked out in Pittsburgh, he’s a pending unrestricted free agent that the Penguins could have easily parted ways with this summer. Hagelin’s contract carries a modified no-trade clause that kicks in next season and runs through the completion of his deal.

Is There a Winner or Loser?

There’s no telling how this trade will work out just yet but it makes sense for both teams involved. Both organizations were strapped with a talented player making a considerable amount of money but underperforming. A change of scenery will hopefully benefit both Hagelin and Perron, while Clendening could find some extra ice time in Anaheim given their injury issues on the blue line.

Personally, I see Hagelin as a perfect fit in Pittsburgh with his speed. This may be wishful thinking for those that want to see someone cement themselves next to Crosby as his future winger but I see Hagelin potentially filling that role. He’ll play fast, create space and carries enough skill to contribute, similar to how Dupuis and Chris Kunitz were able to find a fit on Pittsburgh’s top line.