Chicago Blackhawks GM Kyle Davidson made it clear in his introductory press conference that he's preparing for a rebuild, and the first big domino has fallen.
The Blackhawks have traded Brandon Hagel and two fourth-round picks (2022 and 2024) to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for two conditional first-round draft picks (2023 and 2024), forward Boris Katchouk and forward Taylor Raddysh, the team made official on Friday afternoon. The two first-round picks are Top-10 protected.
It's a massive haul for the Blackhawks, who were only going to trade Hagel if they got an offer they couldn't refuse and this certainly qualifies as that.
"I said a few weeks ago that we are rebuilding, and this is clearly the start of that," Davidson said in a statement. "Getting two first round draft picks as well as two, young, NHL players helps us kickstart that process in a major way. We know that Brandon Hagel was a fan favorite — our fans loved him for all the reasons we loved him — and we know he will be successful with the Lightning.”
There are many reasons why Hagel is an attractive piece to a contender like Tampa. In short, he's only 23 years old, is on an 82-game pace for 31 goals and carries a cap hit of $1.5 million for two more seasons after this one. A ridiculous bargain.
As a comparison, the Lightning acquired forward Blake Coleman from New Jersey in February of 2020 for a high-end prospect in Nolan Foote and first-round pick. Coleman was 28 at the time and in the last season of his deal at a cap hit of $1.8 million. That was likely Chicago's benchmark for a potential Hagel return, at the very least.
While Hagel could have been a nice piece for the Blackhawks to build around, restocking the pipeline has become a priority for Davidson and rightfully so. The only A-level-type prospect in the organization right now is Lukas Reichel, who was taken No. 17 overall in 2020.
The Blackhawks are still without a first-round pick in 2022 because of the Seth Jones trade, but they now have two in a 2023 draft that's considered to be a much deeper class.
As far as the players Chicago is getting in return, Katchouk, 23, and Raddysh, 24, are both depth wingers who were both taken in the second round of the 2016 NHL Draft and carry cap hits of $758,333 through the 2023-24 season.
Raddysh, most notably, played on a line with Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome for the Erie Otters, where they put up video game numbers together. A fun little reunion for the three of them, although you have to wonder what the future holds for Strome as Monday's trade deadline approaches.