The LA Kings traded forward Carl Hagelin to the Washington Capitals on Thursday in exchange for a third round pick in 2019 and a conditional sixth round pick in 2020. Per Pierre LeBrun and confirmed by the team, the condition is that the Capitals must win at least two rounds, with Hagelin playing in 50% or more of any two rounds combined. Without those conditions, the Kings won’t receive the 2020 draft pick. Los Angeles will also retain 50% of Hagelin’s salary and cap hit, as shared by the team.
With the trade, Los Angeles now has 10 draft picks this June: all seven of their own selections, plus Toronto’s first round pick, Washington’s third round pick and Calgary’s fourth round pick.
A contending team acquiring Hagelin near the trade deadline had been expected ever since he was obtained for Tanner Pearson in November, a move that has some evolving and complex context. At the time, the trade was designed to create additional salary cap flexibility, though because Pearson was a first round pick who could’ve fetched a larger return in prior seasons, many, including LAKI, wondered whether that was the best management of a one-time valuable asset. There’s no clear-cut, set-in-stone referendum on what exactly the 26-year-old Pearson will consistently harvest in the NHL, but because he has one goal and a minus-four rating over his last 12 games with Pittsburgh – a stretch in which he’s been scratched twice and has appeared in under 10 minutes three times – to be able to recoup a third round pick while shedding an additional two years of a contract that carries a $3.75M AAV is now, in retrospect, probably the right move.
Though the Kings retain $1.875-million of Hagelin’s pro-rated salary and cap hit, that’s hardly material. The Kings aren’t buyers and are still $9.7-million below the cap as of today, according to Cap Friendly. Hagelin is due to become an unrestricted free agent after the season, so to be able to get a third round pick for him, and potentially a sixth as well, isn’t a bad return for a high-speed role player with playoff experience.
A former member of the Rangers, Ducks and Penguins, Hagelin faced the Capitals in the playoffs in 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018, winning two Stanley Cups with Pittsburgh. He totaled one goal and five points in 22 games with Los Angeles and has two goals and eight points in 38 games overall this season. He also missed 20 games with a knee sprain suffered against Vancouver five games into joining his new club.
“The short time he was here, I thought he made a difference,” Willie Desjardins said. “We will miss him.”
His transitive presence was interesting because of the strong chance he’d be moved again. How do coaches, teammates and the player involved buy in and commit to a struggling team, knowing he’d likely be headed elsewhere later in the season? It’s pretty easy, actually, especially for someone with a constitution like Hagelin’s.
“I think he’s just a real pro. When you’re a pro, you’ll be accepted in any room,” Desjardins said. “And he wanted to do as well as he could. If it worked out that he was going to stay here, then that’s what he was playing for, and if that meant he was going to go somewhere else, then so be it. But he was a real pro. He came in and worked hard. It’ll be good for him to get a chance.”
Adrian Kempe and Hagelin used to skate and train together over the summer while back in Sweden, so the Los Angeles center knew the type of player and person the team was getting when they traded for him. And though he knew that Hagelin’s stay could be short-lived, that doesn’t make it an easy transition. “It’s sad that we lost him, but that’s how it is,” Kempe said.
“Obviously every player on this team since I came here has had an impact on me, but Carl’s one of the guys that when I had a tough time, he helped me to get back on track and its hard to say who else, but this year Carl has definitely been a factor and has helped me to get better and to get back to my game, as well. It’s easier for me to talk to him since he’s Swedish, as well.”
Kempe really enjoyed playing with Hagelin as part of a line that forechecked well and created chances, especially when deployed with Ilya Kovalchuk.
“Forecheck is a big thing,” Kempe said. “I think we made a big impact together there. We were both skating well and had good chemistry. Got a lot of pucks back and he’s easy to talk to on the ice and off the ice, as well. I knew what type of game he plays, and I think everybody knows that it’s pretty easy to play with him. He’s always working really hard and gets lots of pucks back, so it’s very simple and very good.”
The Kings moved forwards around at practice on Wednesday with Kovalchuk joining the Jeff Carter line and Brendan Leipsic joining Kempe’s line, moving Hagelin temporarily over to the right. The realignment coincided with yesterday’s trade murmurings, so it was possible to read the tea leaves that there would be a very good chance Hagelin wouldn’t be available against Nashville when the Kings opened their four-game road trip Thursday (5:00 p.m. / NBCSN / NBC Sports app / LA Kings Audio Network).
Hagelin didn’t take the ice for the optional morning skate; his sticks and bag had already been carried by an equipment manager back to the team hotel. There are options at Desjardins’ disposal, with Michael Amadio a candidate to re-enter the lineup at center, moving Trevor Lewis over to wing. Jonny Brodzinski will be recalled to Nashville today, but it’s not clear whether he’ll be inserted into the lineup after flying east and having played the last of the three games in his conditioning stint with AHL-Ontario last night.
Los Angeles now has seven picks through the first four rounds of the 2019 NHL Draft. It’s very possible they’ll add to that total, though much of what many of us have been hearing is that most of the team’s heavy lifting through trades are more likely to take place over the summer, barring any shift in the market or an offer surfacing that hadn’t previously materialized. More context of where the team’s at in advance of the trade deadline is available here.
The deadline is noon Pacific Time on Monday, February 25. The Kings face the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena that evening.
–Lead photo via Bruce Bennett/NHLI