Once again, the Lightning embraces the present

by Gary Shelton on March 19, 2022

in general

BriseBois seems to love deadline day./(Tampa Bay Lightning/Scott Audette)

Saturday, 4 a.m.

The NHL draft is about hope. It's about tomorrow. It's about building for a better day.

All of that is fine. The Tampa Bay Lightning, on the other hand, is about today.

Once again, the Lightning traded in the future for today on Friday. They sent two future No. 1 draft picks (2023 and 2024) to Chicago for 23-year-old winger Brandon Hagel, a player who should expected to boost the team's chances of winning a third straight Stanley Cup.

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It wasn't a time for the meek. The Bolts also gave up two young players -- Boris Katchouk and Taylor Raddysh -- for Hagel and a pair of fourth-round draft picks. So far this season, Hagel has 37 points (21 goals, 16 assists) in 55 games. He has scored 61 points (30 goals, 31 assists) in 108 games over three seasons.

BriseBois seems to get it. He isn't going to wait on a glorified second-rounder to develop. He seems draft picks as chits to be used to make a team better. If he's right on Hagel, the Bolts did that Friday.

"The value of draft picks lies in our ability to turn them into good NHL players," Bolts' general manager Julien Brisebois said. "Those two first-round picks -- we're hoping they're late first-round picks. We know what the odds are of a late first-round pick turning into a good NHL player. We're giving up on the odds of those players turning into key contributors for us somewhere along the road four or five years from now. Instead, we're getting a sure thing, a player who has already established himself.

"We have the benefit of him chasing a championship right now rather than maybe those two players turning into players. If we can do anything to increase the odds of our current team being successful and going on another magical run, we need to do that."

Hagel has two years left on his contract, and he'd be under the team control for two years after that.

It isn't the first time the Bolts have traded away a first round draft pick. They've done it the last two years and four of the last six.

Hagel is known as a high effort, versatile forward. He should be in the lineup on Saturday night against the Rangers.

"We're adding a 23-year-old player that is super competitive, can play in all situations, can play with all different types of players," BriseBois said. "We got to see him play a lot last season when Chicago was in our division (the Central Division). We noticed, again, how competitive he is and the consistency in his effort every shift. And obviously we've seen a growth in his play this year and his improved performance. We feel he not only improves our odds of winning a championship this season but for the next two seasons because he's under contract for two more years and the terms of his contract are providing the club with really good value.

"The other benefit of this trade is that we're kind of replenishing the pipeline a little sooner. We get to keep our first-round pick for this upcoming draft and we also add a fourth-round pick in this upcoming draft, so that also provides value to us.”

Brisebois said that he liked a lot of thing about Hagel.

"When we’re evaluating a player, it's about the quality of the player, the quality of the person and the quality of the contract," BriseBois said. "He checks all three boxes."

From the sound of it, Hagel will fit in fine with a lineup that features Victor Hedman, Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point and Andrei Vasilevskiy.

"I think since I came into the league, I’ve always been that work-hard guy who was able to put up some numbers and score goals," Hagel said. "What makes me a good player is I work so hard. My number one rule is giving 100 percent every day.

"I'm excited. Obviously, I haven't been in the league for too long: my first full year last year, then three quarters of the way through this year. So excited to be on this winning team, a team that's done it before, and I'll learn from the older guys as well. I'm new to the League as well as a new team. They have a lot of veteran guys who know how to win, know what it takes to win, so I'm excited to do that. I'm ready to learn from those guys but at the same time I'm ready to show what I've got and be a big part of this organization."

Hagel will arrive in Tampa Bay today.


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