Amid surprising trade rumors, Blackhawks’ Brandon Hagel keeping his head level
It’s still unlikely the Hawks trade Hagel, but he’s not hiding from the chatter in the meantime: “Seeing what they [reportedly] want for me, you’ve got to take it as a compliment.”
Many Blackhawks players are reluctant or unwilling to publicly acknowledge trade rumors.
But Brandon Hagel, in his first time through the rumor cycle, isn’t trying to hide from the chatter — which he made clear after practice Tuesday.
“Yeah, I’ve seen it all, obviously,” he said openly. “It has been going on for a little bit. My name has been popping up. It’s one of those things [that shows hockey is] a business. It is what it is. I can’t change what happens. I can’t change what people are going to offer. I can’t do anything about it.”
Hagel’s calmness about the subject is admirable considering how surprising, from an outside perspective, it has been to see his name appearing so frequently on trade lists.
He played his second career NHL game only 13 months ago and he’s still far from well-known outside of Chicago, even though his world-class work ethic and impressive results so far have quickly won over Hawks fans.
He’s also still 23 years old, still in the first year of the three-year contract — with an affordable $1.5 million salary cap hit — he signed last summer and still, until he plays Friday against the Devils, below 100 career games.
But then again, those are some of the reasons he’d be so attractive to so many other teams. And with the Hawks entering a rebuild in desperate need of draft picks and prospects, it makes sense they would gauge the market for just about everyone on the current roster.
Despite that market-measuring, sources say Hagel is as close to off the table as someone on the table can be — he’s unlikely to be traded. That could change depending on who is named the Hawks’ permanent general manager, but that’s where things seemingly stand under interim general manager Kyle Davidson.
Plus, the Hawks’ current asking price for Hagel might be a package of a first-round pick and a highly rated prospect, per a report by Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli earlier this month, which would be an extremely steep price for a contender to pay.
Even Hagel, yet again proving his refreshing willingness to openly discuss rumors, was blown away by that.
“Seeing what they want for me, you’ve got to take it as a compliment, no?” he said, chuckling. “I was a sixth-rounder brought in as a 20-year-old, just this kid who came and played, and they want that? I’ll take that any day.”
Hawks interim coach Derek King, who has made his fondness for Hagel’s attitude and playing style clear throughout his tenure, was equally upfront when discussing the situation Tuesday — and he made his feelings clear again.
“He better not be [traded],” King said. “Hagel has to stay here. That’s [my opinion]. You’ve got to do what’s right for the organization and the team, but Hagel is a big part of this organization.
“It doesn’t matter how good your team is, he’s a guy that you want in the lineup. So it’d be nice if we keep him here and build from there.”
Hagel has slipped into a minor slump lately with just one point, four shots on goal and a 40.6% scoring-chance ratio in his last five games.
That hardly diminishes the impressiveness of his season overall, however, as he’s still producing at a prorated 48-point pace while ranking fifth in scoring-chance ratio. And it certainly doesn’t seem like the rumors are distracting him.
“I don’t think you have to worry too much about him,” King said. “There might be some other guys over the years that you’d have to pull aside and say, ‘It’s OK, don’t worry about it.’ But he’s pretty humble. Mentally, it doesn’t bug him.”
Note: Defenseman Jake McCabe, who left Sunday’s game with an injury, is day-to-day with lower back soreness. He missed practice Tuesday but will likely return Wednesday.