Blackhawks rocked by Brandon Hagel’s departure as more trades loom
Derek King said he was “shocked” and the players were “emotional” about Hagel’s trade to Tampa, which foreshadows more aggressive rebuilding ahead of Monday’s deadline.
ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Brandon Hagel trade Friday shook the Blackhawks’ locker room to its core.
But the earthquakes likely aren’t over.
With less than 48 hours remaining until the NHL trade deadline at 2 p.m. Monday, the Hawks remained intensely involved in trade negotiations on many fronts, filling everyone in the organization with equal amounts of uncertainty and -anxiety.
“The players are emotional about it,” interim coach Derek King said Saturday. “Especially [losing a] player like that you don’t want to lose. But this is a business, and we have to move forward.”
“Hagel was an identity piece for us,” Seth Jones said. “He definitely had a hard-working mentality and did a lot of great things for us. It sucks to see him go. I hope he has a chance to win a Stanley Cup this year with Tampa.”
Even King himself, who had openly argued that Hagel shouldn’t be traded, was blindsided by the move after practice Friday. The team was preparing to head to their flight when Hagel was pulled aside, as he later told Lightning reporters, and King was called up to a meeting with general manager Kyle Davidson.
“When they said his name, I was shocked,” he said “I stepped back and was like, ‘Hmm, this is interesting.’ It is a business. It’s part of the game. I’ve been a part of it; I’ve seen it.”
Taylor Raddysh and Boris Katchouk, the forwards acquired with two first-round picks in the trade, joined the Hawks quickly and looked solid in their debuts Saturday against the Wild. Raddysh skated 15:13, delivering five hits and nearly tipping in a power-play goal in the first period. Katchouk skated 12:24 and produced a decent chance on a third-period breakaway.
King said he exchanged info with Lightning coach Jon Cooper and believes Katchouk projects as a bottom-six wing while Raddysh possesses some second-line potential.
“I’d like to see [Taylor] shoot a little bit more — I’ll have a little chat with him,” King said. “And then Boris brought some energy. He’s a little bit like [Sam] Lafferty, and I like the size. Once they get settled, and a couple more games under their belt, they’ll be fine.”
Now the attention turns to the many other names who could be on their way off of — or onto — the Hawks’ roster.
The Hagel trade signaled Davidson will be aggressive with the tear-down part of the rebuild, which has understandably sparked speculation about the futures of Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Alex DeBrincat. It seems unlikely they’ll move at least during this stage of the rebuild, with an important summer of solidifying the franchise’s long-term plan not far away.
Marc-Andre Fleury headlines the likely-to-be-traded list, although his possible outcomes remain as diverse and difficult to analyze as ever. As Kevin Lankinen said, after acknowledging their frequent conversations with each other, “What’s going on in his mind, I think only he knows.”
The Hawks and Maple Leafs previously discussed a mega-trade involving Hagel and Fleury for elite prospect Matthew Knies, goalie Petr Mrazek and first-round picks, TSN’s Darren Dreger reported. Although that particular deal is no longer possible with Hagel on the Lightning, the Leafs remain interested in Fleury and other Hawks as well, according to sources, even with Fleury’s willingness to move to Toronto unclear.
The Wild — even after beating the Hawks — are also emerging as an active contender in the Fleury sweepstakes, according to multiple reports. They’ve appeared to be a logical fit for months, considering Cam Talbot’s and Kaapo Kahkonen’s struggles, but haven’t engaged in the conversation until now.
Meanwhile, Dominik Kubalik, Calvin de Haan, Ryan Carpenter, Lankinen (in the case Fleury isn’t traded) and others could be involved in simpler player-for-pick trades.