Over the past couple of games, I’ve noticed that Carl Hagelin seems to be skating much better than he had in the playoffs last year. Of course, he dealt with an injured foot and couldn’t maximize his skating ability. In turn, this led to a lackluster two points in the playoffs. One of them was the empty netter that gave the Penguins a 2-0 lead late in game six of the Stanley Cup Finals.
This season, he has struggled to get on the score sheet. He’s got two points in 13 games and has played mostly third line minutes. As recently as Sunday night, he played with Evgeni Malkin and Patric Hornqvist. Both of those guys are ones who he has played with before. He has also played with Phil Kessel and Riley Sheahan at various points of the season.
The Penguins have obvious issues scoring 5-on-5 goals this season and Hagelin’s career high in goals is 17. That’s not bad for a top-9 forward. The issue is the lack of scoring he showed last season has leaked into this season. It’s not just him, it is a team-wide concern. In fact, it is so bad that the Penguins actually have the league’s worst 5-on-5 differential.
Hagelin is far from the culprit but he could find himself in an interesting situation.
Josh Archibald has been dragged through the team’s first 13 games as the press box king. He compares very well to Hagelin in the sense that he can flat out fly on the ice. Archibald has shown flashes of being able to finish at a rate higher than Hagelin has over the past season and into this one. It’s hard to imagine a situation that sees Hagelin sit for Archibald but it isn’t something I would consider out of the realm of possibility.
Another thing to consider is the $4 million cap hit Hagelin carries and the Penguins need of a third line center. These are indirectly related.
Hagelin likely wouldn’t net the Penguins a legitimate third-line center but if the Penguins could shed his cap they’d be in a better spot. They currently have $2 million to spend after the Sheahan trade. Sheahan isn’t a third line center. The Penguins look even less threatening if Malkin or Sidney Crosby sustain an IR-stint type of injury.
Considering the Penguins have Daniel Sprong in the AHL who can seemingly score at will there, they could afford to trade Hagelin for a draft pick to maximize the cap they could shed. Sprong is a right winger whereas Hagelin prefers the left side. Hornqvist could move over to the left to make room for Sprong but usually would prefer to play the right.
I’m all for the fast paced game the Penguins play. They have plenty of speed that they could afford to move a guy like Hagelin and try and shake up the 5-on-5 play by bringing a prolific scoring prospect in Sprong to the NHL. Hagelin has proven he is a streaky player. He was sent to Anaheim after two career high seasons. He struggled there and was acquired by the Penguins for another struggling player in David Perron. He is expendable.
Looking at a team like Vegas who is having a lot of success currently and has a boatload of draft picks, you could give them a guy like Hagelin and insert more speed into their line up and give them a top-9 winger. He would compete with Perron, Jonathan Marchessault, and Erik Haula for minutes but would be an upgrade for a team that has cap room and said before the season that they’d like to be a contending team this year despite losing three goalies to injured reserve already.
Ask them for a third or fourth round pick. Let Hagelin go. Bring up Sprong or someone else that you’re confident can prodcue. Go get your third line center with the $6 million or so that you have. Jim Rutherford has never been shy when it comes to spending to the cap and with his team’s early struggles scoring, this year is even more of a reason to do that.