The Tampa Bay Lightning are making their push for a three-peat.
On Friday, the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions acquired Brandon Hagel from the Chicago Blackhawks, a 23-year-old forward who is under contract for two more seasons after this one.
They sent 2023 and 2024 first-round picks and young forwards Taylor Raddysh and Boris Katchouk to Chicago for Hagel and fourth-rounders this year and in ’24.
After saying nothing was off the table, Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois went all-in as he did in 2020 when he traded for Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow. Those moves set the table for Tampa Bay to win the Cup in 2020 and 2021.
The acquisition of Hagel has a similar vibe. A late bloomer who was drafted in 2016 by Buffalo and went unsigned, the native of the small town of Morinville, Alberta, outside Edmonton took advantage of injuries in Chicago last season to establish himself in the NHL.
Hagel was just another forward prospect for Chicago when he made his debut March 11, 2020 — the final game before the season was suspended because of the pandemic and faced a crowded roster picture when play resumed in 2021.
Then a series of health issues with Chicago’s forwards created an opening, and Hagel seized a regular role with his nonstop motor. He had nine goals and 15 assists in 52 games last season, and the Blackhawks rewarded him in August with a $4.5 million, three-year contract.
Tampa Bay is taking on that entire salary, using the cap space saved by sending Raddysh and Katchouk to Chicago. It’s another impressive cap move by BriseBois, who managed to add veteran forwards Corey Perry and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and bring back defenseman Zach Bogosian in the offseason after losing Coleman and Goodrow in free agency and Yanni Gourde to the Seattle expansion draft.
Hagel is another piece to fill that void. He has a career-high 21 goals and 16 assists in 55 games this season. It looked as if he might be a key player in Chicago’s long-term plans under new general manager Kyle Davidson, but the package from Tampa Bay provided to be irresistible for the rebuilding Blackhawks.
“I said a few weeks ago that we are rebuilding, and this is clearly the start of that,” Davidson said. “Getting two first-round draft picks as well as two, young, NHL players helps us kickstart that process in a major way. We know that Brandon Hagel was a fan favorite — our fans loved him for all the reasons we loved him — and we know he will be successful with the Lightning.”
The Lightning are again banking that they can make a long run and have the scouting acumen to find talent in later rounds of the draft. They showed they could by picking Brayden Point in the third round in 2014 and helping him develop into their top center.
With three years left what BriseBois has defined as Tampa Bay’s championship window, the price was almost secondary after the rival Florida Panthers traded for top-four defenseman Ben Chiarot and could be in line to make another big move before the deadline Monday.
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