Lightning Continue to Reap Benefits From Hagel Trade 1 Year Later

On March 18, 2022, the scrawl at the bottom of NHL Network broke in with breaking news to announce that the Tampa Bay Lightning had acquired Brandon Hagel from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for two conditional first-round draft picks (2023 and 2024), forward Boris Katchouk and forward Taylor Raddysh; the two first-round picks are top-10 protected.

After seeing all the information about the trade, there were many thoughts. Among them was “what are the Blackhawks doing?” followed by the thought that the Lightning would add a young forward with a solid all-around game, who came at a very cap-friendly price for a team with very little cap space. While the Blackhawks did what they had to do to rebuild their team, the Lightning traded for a player who could substantially contribute to the team.

Hagel Starts Slow

“Hagel’s numbers are inflated because he skates with Patrick Kane,” was a text received from a friend shortly after the trade. That statement started to sound very true as the 23-year-old struggled after arriving in Tampa Bay. He wanted to stick around for the Blackhawks’ rebuild and had become very comfortable with Chicago and the Blackhawks organization. “Getting traded was tough,” Hagel admitted during last year’s playoffs. “I didn’t know a single person with the Lightning. I was trying to juggle fitting in with my new team. Processing everything in such a short amount of time was a bit of a challenge.”

Brandon Hagel Chicago Blackhawks
Brandon Hagel, formerly of the Chicago Blackhawks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

For most of the rest of the regular season, Hagel lacked the tenacity that he had displayed in Chicago as he was getting used to playing with new teammates while dealing with the emotions of getting dealt from a team that he thought he was going to play with for a very long time. However, after that initial adjustment period, he started making an impact for the Lightning during the 2022 Playoffs.

Hagel Makes the Adjustment

After getting thumped by the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-0 in the first game of their playoff series in 2021-22, the Lightning and Hagel bounced back in a big way. In Game 2 of the series, Hagel scored his first career playoff goal, which turned out to be the game-winner. He finished the playoffs with four goals and two assists, but even more importantly, he recorded 34 hits and 17 takeaways.

Brandon Hagel Tampa Bay Lightning
Brandon Hagel, Tampa Bay Lightning (Photo by Mark LoMoglio/NHLI via Getty Images)

At the beginning of the 2022-23 season, the now fully acclimated draft pick of the Buffalo Sabres had posted 33 points (16G, 17A) in the first 52 games with the team. In addition, Hagel’s ability to be an excellent forechecker has led him to register 42 takeaways in the first 30 games of the season, something only five forwards have done since the NHL started tracking that statistic in 2005.

What Hagel Is Bringing to the Lightning

When they traded for him, the Lightning knew they were getting a tenacious forechecker who could also put the puck in the back of the net. He goes hard into all areas of the ice and is a player who can generate offense for the team. His pairing on the first line has meant a big boost to both Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov.

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“He’s really good at keeping pucks alive, whether it’s on the cycle or stealing pucks off the forecheck or backcheck,” Point said in a recent interview. “It’s really important to have a guy like that who can get the puck back for our line.”

Not that he was making a statement, Hagel did remind everyone associated with the Lightning why they got him, picking up a hat trick in a 5-3 victory over the Montreal Canadiens (March 18), which came exactly one year after the trade. It was also the 200th game of his career, and coincidently, he also had a hat trick in his 100th career game. This also led to head coach Jon Cooper referring to Hagel as a “Swiss Army knife” because “you can put him on different lines, and he blossoms in different roles.”

Ultimately, two franchises completed a trade that both squads needed to complete. The Blackhawks gained some solid players and draft stock, while the Lightning acquired a young player with a cap-friendly salary that could be an instrumental part of the team in the short- and long term.

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