Trading Brandon Hagel Might Be a (Painfully) Necessary First Step for the Blackhawks

The trade deadline is just 13 days away, so things could start getting serious pretty soon. Kyle Davidson and Blackhawks have plenty to flesh out before then, and a handful of their players have become near-daily mentions in trade banter around the league.

Brandon Hagel is a name that has popped up more than a few times, making us wonder (1) how he fits into the Blackhawks’ future and (2) about the likelihood of a trade between now and the deadline?

Brandon Hagel is in the midst of a pretty nice season for the Blackhawks, and his trade value is pretty high (31-point through 51 games). Overall, the 23-year-old winger has 55 points in 104 games (26G, 29A), and he’s signed through the next two seasons at an affordable $1.5 million cap hit. Aside from Patrick Kane and Marc-André Fleury, there’s probably not a single person on the Blackhawks roster that could command a return like Brandon Hagel.

We’ve already seen reports from NHL news breaker Frank Seravalli that estimate Hagel’s trade value to be in the neighborhood of “first-round pick plus top prospect territory.” Seravalli notes that Hagel’s contract, production, and style of play is “making teams drool.”

Still, Seravalli has the Blackhawks asking for something a tick higher than that. He has also reported that some teams have come close to Chicago’s asking price, but not quite close enough for Kyle Davidson’s taste. Can you blame him? Parting with Hagel will hurt.

But, for as good as Hagel is (and can be moving forward), what’s his worth to the Blackhawks? They’re blowing it up, and by the time they’re even close to coming out on the other side of this rebuild, Brandon Hagel’s highly affordable cap number will be much higher.

There’s also this … Patrick Kane isn’t going anywhere. Neither is Alex DeBrincat. We don’t know what Jonathan Toews wants to do, but regardless, he doesn’t have a whole bunch of trade value. Marc-Andre Fleury can net the Blackhawks a first-rounder … if he’s willing to be traded. All this to say, who are the Blackhawks trading before the deadline!? Erik Gustaffson? Calvin de Haan? Maybe, Dylan Strome or Dominik Kubalík? If those names are the biggest to depart between now and March 21, where are the Blackhawks getting those valuable future assets?

Do you see what I’m getting at here? For as much as it might sting to see the Blackhawks trade a budding star like Brandon Hagel, it might be a necessary first step in the rebuilding process.

The Blackhawks simply can’t hoard anyone on the roster worth something and hope to revamp their system. They need to add picks and prospects, and they need to do it sooner than later, when you consider the time it takes to develop these prospects into NHL-ready players.

While Discussing the potential of a Marc-André Fleury trade to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday morning’s episode of The Fan Morning Show on Sportsnet, Frank Seravalli opined that adding Brandon Hagel to a package to Toronto; the Blackhawks might be able to reach (maybe even eclipse) their rumored asking price for Hagel. Toronto is one of four teams that Seravalli knows to have contacted the Blackhawks regarding Hagel.

At least four teams are known to have engaged in conversation on Hagel: Florida, Toronto, New Jersey, and Calgary. The Flames likely moved on to Toffoli; the Maple Leafs are focused on defense. But Hagel’s contract and cost certainty is making teams drool. He is in first-round pick plus top prospect territory, which is understandable given the contract, his production, and his style of play.

If the Blackhawks could get the Leafs to pony up a pair of first-rounders, a top prospect, and maybe Peter Mrázek, in return for a Fleury-Hagel package, the Blackhawks would be wise to consider such a deal seriously.

Maybe the Maple Leafs would be willing to include winger Matthew Knies in the deal. Knies was the 57th pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft out of the University of Minnesota and he is currently ranked as the fourth-best prospect in Toronto’s system by Sportsnet’s Luke Fox.

Sportsnet’s Luke Fox describes the 19-year-old forward as having soft hands and a great mixture of strength and finesse with the potential to be (at best) a top-six forward or (at worst) a reliable checking forward. This season, Knies logged 27 points (10G, 17A) in 28 games with the Golden Gophers and was selected to Team USA’s World Juniors National Team.

Maybe the Blackhawks have to take on an expiring deal in a trade like this, but either way, this is a type of deal that the Blackhawks can’t afford to pass up if they’re looking to inject new life into their system.

written by

Patrick is the Lead NFL Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @PatrickKFlowers.

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