Drake Caggiula was playing video games with friends at his home Dec. 30 in Edmonton when his phone buzzed. It was a text from his agent, letting him know that there were rumors swirling that the Oilers might trade him.
The news caught the 24-year-old left wing off guard.
Within a half-hour, Caggiula got a call telling him that he and defenseman Jason Garrison had been traded to the Blackhawks for defenseman Brandon Manning.
“It happened pretty quick and unexpectedly,” Caggiula said.
Saturday was Caggiula’s first practice with the Hawks after he spent the last week in limbo. While most players are able to hop on the first flight out to meet their new team, the Ontario native was stuck in Edmonton as the Hawks worked to expedite his visa application.
Caggiula, who spent the last two-plus seasons with the Oilers, kept his focus on hockey.
“This whole week I’ve been trying to find places to skate,” said Caggiula, who had never been traded. “I was able to find a junior team in Edmonton to skate, to keep my legs and momentum going. It’s obviously not the same as an NHL practice, but at least I was able to get on the ice and keep my feet underneath me and hopefully, I’m able to step right in and play.”
Unfortunately, it won’t be that simple, and Caggiula acknowledged that.
Coach Jeremy Colliton will be Caggiula’s third coach this season after the Oilers fired Todd McLellan and replaced him with Ken Hitchcock in November. That means Caggiula will learn his third system in the last two months.
But he isn’t fazed.
“[The Hawks] were pretty clear with me when I got traded, they just want me to play my game and not play any other style,” said Caggiula, who described his style as “high energy, fast-paced [and] gritty with a little bit of skill.
“Obviously, there’s going to be a bit of a learning curve. I think they play a little bit of a different style than what I’m used to in Edmonton, but it should be an easy transition. I got a lot of people here already talking to me, helping me through the process.”
Caggiula hasn’t been happy with how he has played this season. He had only 11 points (seven goals, four assists) in 29 games with the Oilers. He also spent a short time in December on injured reserve with a hand injury.
“[I] wasn’t disappointed in my game [with the Oilers], but there are definitely areas I want to improve in, and that’s a little bit more of the consistency in the offensive sides of things,” Caggiula said.
The Hawks assigned forwards Dylan Sikura and Andreas Martinsen to Rockford to make room. Now that Caggiula is with the team, he’s eager to prove his worth.
“Excited to finally be here,” he said. “It’s been a long week, and hopefully [I’ll] get into a game soon.”