The LA Kings had to do something. Rumours have been swirling for weeks now. Who was on this team that didn’t deserve to be? Who needed to go? What moves could they make, not to have a shot at the playoffs, but to maybe prevent them from limping past the finish line, thirty first in the league, with nothing in their future but more disappointment, and an aging core locked up long term?
Tanner Pearson ended up being the casualty, previously one of the bright spots in the LA Kings youth, he had struggled to score this season, and had been bumped from his spot next to Jeff Carter up and down the lineup, settling on the fourth line. At 3.75M a year until 2020-21, he’s an expensive depth forward.
Enter Carl Hagelin. Previously of the New York Rangers, Hagelin won two Cups with Pittsburgh, and has wowed teams all over the world with his speed, shot, and flow. His contract is about the same cost as Pearson, at 3.6M a season, but here’s the important bit: he’s a UFA after this season. With much of the Kings salary locked up in Carter, Kopitar, Brown, Doughty and Quick, the Kings needed to create some breathing room for next season and the seasons after. Adrian Kempe needs a new contract next season. In two seasons, Toffoli and Muzzin are due. Hagelin may be able to help the Kings on the ice, but it’s his off the ice benefits that ultimately landed him in Pearson’s old stall. More on that later, though.
Hagelin, from Nykvarn, Sweden, was drafted in the sixth round in 2006 by the Rangers, where he enjoyed early success before being traded to the Ducks (mandatory booing) in 2015, where he struggled, with only twelve points in the 43 games he played for them. He was then traded to the Penguins in January 2016, where he helped spark a midseason resurgence for Pittsburgh with his trademark speed, and ended up being a key part of the 2016 Cup win for the Penguins.
That’s what most people think of, when they think of Carl Hagelin. Speed.
Plays like this:
and footraces like this:
have solidified Hagelin as one of the leagues premier speedsters. For a team like the Kings, who rely on heavy play and solid forechecking, rather than speed, he could be a difference maker, especially if he finds chemistry with players like fellow Swede Adrian Kempe.
Hagelin has never scored more than forty points in a season. He’s not going to singlehandedly kickstart the Kings into a cacophony of goalscoring and game winning. But maybe he can kickstart a couple of his new teammates. If he manages to get someone like Jeff Carter (only four goals this season, but still good enough to be second on the team— yikes) or Tyler Toffoli (nine points so far), maybe that can be a catalyst for more. An article in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette says that Hagelin’s value to the Penguins lies not just on the scoresheet, but in his ability to create turnovers and force the other teams defence to make mistakes and play deeper. Few defencemen want to get caught pinching if Hagelin is the one on the breakaway:
In short, on the ice, it’s pretty much a pound for pound trade. The Kings give up some size and potential in Pearson in return for what is essentially a season long rental player in Hagelin. He’s not the same power forward type that Pearson could be, and has shown flashes of being, but he has other upsides.
And if nothing else, maybe he will give Adrian Kempe a run for his money in the hair department.