Part of the Chicago Blackhawks‘ offseason will involve the evaluation of pending free agents. In this episode of Blackhawks Business, we will take a look at Restricted Free Agent (RFA) Forward Brandon Hagel.
Brandon Hagel was one of the biggest surprises of the 2020-2021 season for the Chicago Blackhawks. It seems like once he got into the lineup, he refused to come out. After only getting into 1 game the prior season, it was not clear what the ‘Hawks could expect from him this season, but he delivered, and exceeded expectations. With 9 goals and 24 points, Hagel proved he belonged in the NHL, and can be a valuable contributor to a team.
After a slow start from a points perspective, Hagel really picked it up during the second half of the season. But one thing that didn’t change was his effort. He was noticeable on every shift, harassing opponents on the forecheck, hustling back on defense, and chasing down and winning every puck battle he could find.
His energy on the ice was contagious, and it seemed like his linemates stepped it up when paired with him. You need those “spark plugs” to keep the team moving every night, and Hagel provided that, as well as a surprising knack for playmaking down the stretch this past season.
Hagel played under a $925K AAV contract for 2020-21. He is considered a 10.2(c) Restricted Free Agent, which means he cannot be signed to an offer sheet by another team. He is also not eligible for arbitration, so the ‘Hawks hold all the cards from a salary perspective.
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The Case For Re-Signing Hagel
This is an easy one for me. He is a tornado on the ice, and seems like he is in on every loose puck, every board battle, and every rush the ‘Hawks have when his line is on the ice. He is still young at 22, and with a season of experience, he could elevate his game in 2021-22.
He can play up and down the lineup, and his effort and hustle make him a great candidate for the Penalty Kill, which he got some experience on late in the season. He can play on a checking line, and he can play on a skill line. That versatility is valuable to the team.
I believe he will garner a contract in the $1M per season range, similar to the deal Kampf has been operating under for the last couple of seasons. I find this an affordable deal for a player that brings the value to the ice that Hagel does.
The Case For Moving On From Hagel
This is even simpler to me. There is no reason to move on, unless you believe he is blocking a spot for a better player. There are similar players who got time on the main roster this season (Hardman, Entwistle, and Reese Johnson come to mind), but Hagel was the most consistent of the bunch.
If you need him as a sweetener for a trade you want to get done, there is a case you could make for that, but I do not foresee a team asking for Hagel in a deal.
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The ‘Hawks should Re-Sign Hagel to a 2 year deal for $1M per season. His value to the roster, especially as an example to young players who get their shot, is well worth the contract value. I think it would be hard to argue otherwise.