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Hagel has ‘mixed emotions' after being traded from Hawks

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Brandon Hagel's name first surfaced in the rumor mill at the end of February, and it was hard for even him to ignore. A big reason why? Chicago's reported asking price made his eyes light up.

"Seeing what they want for me, you've got to take it as a compliment, no?" a smiling Hagel said on Feb. 22. "I mean, come on, I was a sixth-rounder brought in as a 20-year-old, just this kid who came and played. And they want that? I’ll take that any day."

Three days later, Hagel scored his first career hat trick in his 100th NHL game and was jokingly asked by a reporter whether he upped his trade value even more after a performance like that.

"Two firsts, a couple of prospects, [Connor] McDavid, maybe," Hagel laughed. "I don’t know."

Turns out he wasn't far off.

On Friday afternoon, Blackhawks GM Kyle Davidson began the rebuilding process by trading Hagel — along with a fourth-round pick in 2022 and 2024 — to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for first-round picks in 2023 and 2024 and forwards Boris Katchouk and Taylor Raddysh. 

Hagel was made aware of the news after practice, which he participated in. He was scheduled to travel with the team to Minnesota but got pulled aside by Davidson as he was preparing to head to his car.

"I was just about to go drive there and they just pulled me upstairs in the room and kind of gave me the low-down," Hagel said in a virtual conference call. "At the time, they said they couldn't tell me where yet but it was going to be a good team, so I had no idea. And then obviously seeing stuff all over the internet, I still wasn't told, but I was getting a lot of text messages that I was going there.

"Obviously a little bit of a crazy day, mixed emotions, made tons of friends and memories there, but that being said, I'm also excited and happy to be coming to Tampa, especially with the team they have."

One of the first texts Hagel got was from Tyler Johnson, who was traded from Tampa Bay to Chicago over the offseason. The two of them were teammates for a brief amount of time with the Blackhawks and Johnson had nothing but positive things to say about the Lightning, which allowed Hagel to feel more comfortable as he processed the trade.

"He texted me because a lot of the guys already took off from the plane," Hagel said. "He asked if I was going to Tampa and I said, 'Yeah I'm pretty sure that's where it is,' and he basically said, 'You'll love it, there's nothing bad to say about it.' So I'm excited. Even him being able to tell me that, it makes me just as excited."

Hagel was an attractive trade chip for a contending team like the Lightning because of his age (23), production (31-goal pace across 82 games) and value ($1.5 million cap hit for two more seasons after this one). His contract is quietly becoming one of the league's best bargains, in large part because of his style of play and ability to play anywhere in the lineup.

While he would've loved to have been a building block in Chicago, Hagel is looking forward to playing for, not just a contender, but the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions.

"I'm excited to be on this winning team and a team that's done it before and learn from the older guys as well," Hagel said. "I'm new to the league, as well as obviously a new team, and they have a lot of veteran guys there that know how to win and know what it takes to win, so I'm excited to do that.

"I'm ready to learn from those guys, but at the same time I'm ready to show what I got and be a big part of this organization."

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