When the Chicago Blackhawks dealt Brandon Hagel, it was the unofficial beginning of their scorched-earth rebuild. General manager (GM) Kyle Davidson traded the 24-year-old forward to the Tampa Bay Lightning on March 18, 2022, signaling a new direction after years of mediocrity.
In exchange, Davidson received forwards Taylor Raddysh and Boris Katchouk, in addition to 2023 and 2024 first-round picks. Davidson didn’t have to move Hagel; he was young enough that he could’ve been a great building block. But while he has flourished with the Lightning, it’s easy to see why Davidson made the deal in retrospect.
Hagel Trade Was Shocking But Reasonable for Blackhawks
Although Davidson said he’d lead a rebuild of the Blackhawks when he took over as GM, this trade was surprising. It wasn’t obvious the rebuild would involve dealing young talent such as Hagel, Alex DeBrincat, and Kirby Dach. However, the team performed well below expectations in 2021-22. Davidson opted for a significant overhaul of the on-ice product by letting go of fan favorites while acquiring more draft capital, and moving Hagel was just the start of that process.
Related: Blackhawks Hagel Trade Signals Start of the Rebuild
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There’s certainly an argument that the Blackhawks should’ve kept Hagel. A 2016 sixth-round pick of the Buffalo Sabres, the Blackhawks signed him in Oct. 2018. He largely exceeded expectations in 2020-21, his rookie season, with 24 points (nine goals, 15 assists) in 52 games before following that up in 2021-22 with 37 points (21 goals, 16 assists) in 55 games for the team.
Yet, the offer was likely one Davidson couldn’t have refused, as two first-rounders and two young players were a lot to receive. Hagel has improved his value since, though, and is having a career season with the Lightning with 56 points (24 goals, 32 assists) in 69 games.
The Lightning might’ve paid a premium, but their window remains open despite a competitive Eastern Conference. They made a similar move last month in acquiring Tanner Jeannot, and while it might’ve seemed like an overpayment, it may not matter as much if he and Hagel help them win another Stanley Cup.
Assessing the Blackhawks’ Return
Both Raddysh and Katchouk were NHL-ready players at the time of the trade. However, they couldn’t find consistent roles with the Lightning. Over the last year, they’ve received more playing time with the Blackhawks.
Raddysh skated in 21 games for the Blackhawks after the…
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