The Chicago Blackhawks have begun their teardown.
With the trade deadline only days away, the Blackhawks decided to get a jump on the action, trading promising forward Brandon Hagel and two fourth-round draft picks to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for its 2023 and 2024 first-round draft picks and prospects Taylor Raddysh and Boris Katchouk.
It's a steep price to pay. But, seemingly, a worthy one.
Hagel has the potential to be the steal of the trade deadline, with his addiction to the Lightning drawing comparisons to the Blake Coleman trade two years ago that ultimately pushed Tampa to consecutive Stanley Cups.
The 23-year-old has come out of nowhere in 2021-22 to have a terrific season on a struggling Blackhawks squad, racking up 21 goals and 37 points in 55 to this point while seeing his usage skyrocket from averaging below 14 minutes in ice time per night last year to nearly 18 minutes, now.
While his on-ice production is undoubtedly impressive, what makes Hagel an even more attractive asset is his contract, which gives the Lightning multiple years of team control of a player who will assuredly help balance their lineup.
The Blackhawks signed Hagel to a three-year deal this past summer that carries a mere $1.5 million price tag per season, keeping him under contract through the 2023-24 season and ensuring that, even upon expiry, he will still be a restricted free agent.
For a Lightning team in the middle of its contention window, surrendering such a massive chunk of draft capital for a player like Hagel, who will help the team immensely for the next three years while earning a pittance, seems like a worthwhile trade-off.
The Blackhawks, meanwhile, managed to strike at the perfect time with their coveted asset, selling Hagel at the absolute peak of his value and before his 22 percent shooting percentage is likely to somewhat regress.
While they are giving up a 23-year-old versatile forward, Hagel will likely be nearing his 30s by the time the Blackhawks exit their upcoming rebuild, and the haul they ended up getting for him will set them up nicely for years to come.
It's a rare win-win for both sides. And one of the premium trade candidates is now off the board with the deadline less than four days away.