Chicago Sun-Times


Hagel has lived up to expectatio­ns with Tampa Bay; Raddysh has flourished in Chicago

- BEN POPE | @BenPopeCST

The blockbuste­r Brandon Hagel trade between the Blackhawks and Lightning will hit its one-year anniversar­y next weekend.

The details of the trade — Hagel and two fourth-round picks for two first-round picks, Taylor Raddysh and Boris Katchouk — were shocking at the time.

It was shocking that the Hawks were willing to move Hagel, a 23-year-old fan favorite and culture-setter just settling into his niche in the NHL. And it was shocking that the Lightning were willing to give up so much for a 2016 sixth-round pick with 61 career NHL points.

In retrospect, it isn’t nearly so shocking. Instead, early results indicate it might’ve been a win for both sides.

The Hawks have doubled — and tripled and quadrupled — down on their strategy of selling off establishe­d, well-liked stars for draft picks in the time since, be it Alex DeBrincat, Kirby Dach, Max Domi or Patrick Kane.

Hawks general manager Kyle Davidson’s decision to move Hagel when his asking price was met proved to be the tip of the iceberg, foreshadow­ing his overall approach. A year ago, the rebuild had just been publicly declared; the scope of it, including the Hawks outright tanking in 2022-23, wasn’t yet known. It only later turned out that no player was safe.

Davidson has acquired four more firstround picks since nabbing those two from the Lightning — and the Rangers’ playoff outcome could make it five more — but the Hagel haul did jump-start his inventory-building process. The first of the two Lightning picks is coming up this June and will fall late in the round, well after the Hawks’ own pick.

The Lightning, meanwhile, also have doubled down on their strategy of eschewing all concerns about the future to build the best team — the best salary-cap-compliant team, that is — in the present.

Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois essentiall­y followed the Hagel trade blueprint again at the deadline this year, acquiring another young, cost-controlled, versatile forward — Tanner Jeannot — from the Predators. What he gave up again was shocking: first-, second-, third-, fourth- and fifthround picks and Cal Foote.

In a few years, Tampa Bay’s cupboard will be bare. It has the NHL’s second-worst prospect pool (according to The Athletic’s 2023 rankings), no pick higher than the sixth round this year and no first-round pick until 2026. But that has been accepted as the price to pay for success.

“The odds of those picks turning into players that can help us win while we have this group of players right now in their prime . . . are zero,” BriseBois told reporters after the Jeannot trade.

And Hagel, after a somewhat slow adjustment period following the trade last spring, has lived up to expectatio­ns this season.

His empty-net goal in the Lightning’s win against the Hawks on Saturday gave him 23 goals and 28 assists in 66 games, and he was averaging 18:51 of ice time. Steven Stamkos’ injury temporaril­y bumped him up to the first line with Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov.

The fact that he has produced that much with a $1.5 million cap hit (which remains locked in place through next season) makes him one of the biggest bargains in the NHL. That’s exactly why the Lightning wanted him.

Meanwhile, Raddysh has prospered in a bigger role with the Hawks; he leads the team with 17 goals in addition to 13 assists. His and Katchouk’s paths have diverged since arriving in Chicago with similar pedigrees — Katchouk has struggled in a fourthline role this season — but the Hawks are probably OK with hitting .500 on the two active-player throw-ins.

Raddysh, at just 25, could conceivabl­y stick around through the rebuild. Or he could be flipped for more picks in a “Hagel Lite” type of trade because he, too, is a bargain at a $758,000 cap hit through next season.

 ?? GETTY IMAGES ?? Brandon Hagel (left) has been bumped up to the first line with Tampa Bay, and Taylor Raddysh leads the Blackhawks with 17 goals.
GETTY IMAGES Brandon Hagel (left) has been bumped up to the first line with Tampa Bay, and Taylor Raddysh leads the Blackhawks with 17 goals.
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