After the Washington Capitals‘ “under the radar” move of acquiring defenseman Michal Kempny from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for a 2018 third-round pick led to the franchise’s first Stanley Cup, the team decided to go with the same approach and acquired forward Carl Hagelin from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for a third-round pick in 2019. in addition, a sixth-round pick will he sent to the Kings should the Capitals go past the second round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Capitals were familiar with Hagelin, 30, as they had played his team in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in each of their past six trips to the postseason and lost the first five of those series before beating the Pittsburgh Penguins in a six-game series in the Second Round last season.
After the Penguins got off to a 6-5-3 start, they shipped Hagelin to the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for forward Tanner Pearson in an effort to change the team’s chemistry. After recording 10 goals and 31 points in 81 games last season, Hagelin struggled out of the gate, just scoring a goal and three points in his first 16 games of the season with the Penguins.
As a pending unrestricted free agent and the Kings collapsing to the basement of the Western Conference after getting swept by the Vegas Golden Knights in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs a season ago, Hagelin’s stay in Los Angeles was not expected to be very long. After 22 games with the Kings, where he posted a goal, five points, and a -2 rating, they sent him to the Capitals on February 21.
The Capitals were looking for some more offensive depth as forward Andre Burakovsky got off to a horrendous start with just five goals and eight points in his first 40 games and while he normally turns his game around later in the year, he is very inconsistent and gets plagued from injury fairly often. The Capitals felt like they needed some insurance, so they added Hagelin and ended up holding onto Burakovsky despite trade rumors swirling around the 24-year old.
Before missing Friday’s 2-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild due to illness, Hagelin had posted three goals and eight points, which equal his total set in 38 games with the Kings and Penguins this season, in his first 13 games with the Capitals. In addition, his shooting percentage has gone from 3.6% and 2.8% with the Penguins and Kings, respectively, to 13.6% with the Capitals.
The Capitals needed to fix their penalty kill as they recorded an efficiency of 78.4% (22nd in the NHL) before Hagelin arrived in Washington. Since Hagelin played his first game with the Capitals, the team has a penalty-killing percentage of 80%. If you don’t include the Capitals’ 5-4 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday, when they went 0-for-3 on the penalty kill, the team has an efficiency of 86.5% of the penalty kill. Hagelin has averaged 2:50 worth of ice-time per game since joining the Capitals, the highest among forwards and the third-highest on the team behind defensemen Brooks Orpik (2:53) and Matt Niskanen (2:52).
Defensively, Hagelin has averaged a takeaway per game, which is tied with center Lars Eller for seventh on the team, while getting credited with only six giveaways. He also has a +4 rating and 10 hits since joining the Capitals.
Hagelin has also helped the players around him produce more. In 10 games since Hagelin was placed on the third-line, Eller has four goals, six points, and a +6 rating after scoring only eight goals in his first 64 games. His -9 rating at the time was one of the worst on the Capitals. While forward Brett Connolly was in the midst of a career year, he has been able to improve on that, posting five goals and eight points since Hagelin joined the third-line.
In addition to helping the penalty kill, Hagelin has boosted the third-line’s production after it struggled to produce for most of the season. With Hagelin’s contract set to expire on July 1, the Capitals will have to see how he fits into their plans sooner rather than later as he will be an attractive commodity come free agency. If Hagelin keeps producing the way he is and the penalty kill continues to succeed, he could convince the Capitals to keep him longer. After nailing the Kempny trade last season, it appears that the Capitals have done it again with Hagelin. Will the results be the same? We’ll have to wait see.
By Harrison Brown