Carl Hagelin is one of the primary drivers of the Pittsburgh Penguins attack. Lost in the shadows of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Phil Kessel, Hagelin’s contributions go well beyond his personal stat sheet. Hagelin’s speed and attention to detail directly raise his frequent linemate Malkin’s offensive totals and translate positively to the most important stat: wins and losses. The Penguins are a better team with Carl Hagelin and they should reward him with a new contract.
Hagelin’s current deal has an average annual cap hit of $4 million but the contract expires after the 2018-19 season. As of July 1, Hagelin became eligible to sign a new deal. The Penguins acquired the fleet-footed left winger on Jan. 16, 2016 for struggling winger David Perron and spare defenseman Adam Clendening. Last season, Perron scored 66 points last season for Vegas and on July 1, signed a four-year, $16 million deal with St. Louis.
Consider Hagelin in the same $4 million range. It isn’t a coincidence Hagelin has played in the Eastern Conference Final five times in his seven-year career.
Players who have never surpassed 39 points, never scored 20 goals and are about to turn 30, usually don’t command moderately expensive contracts. However, Hagelin is an exception. Just as his speed, puck retrieval, and penalty killing abilities are an exception to the typical role player.
In 2016, as part of the explosive H-B-K line (Hagelin-Bonino-Kessel), Hagelin was on the forefront of the Penguins forecheck attack. That line gift-wrapped a Stanley Cup for Pittsburgh. A broken leg limited Hagelin in 2017, but last season Hagelin helped propel Malkin to Hart Trophy considering and nearly the Art Ross Trophy.
The analytics are as clear as the eye test.
Evgeni Malkin played nearly 60 percent of his 5v5 ice time with Hagelin, which means he also played nearly 40 percent without him. Hagelin and Malkin statistically rose above the team and were positives in every category when they were paired, according to NaturalStatTrick.com.
Malkin’s Corsi rose to 55 percent with Hagelin. It was 49 percent without. Hagelin and Malkin took 56 percent of the shots and scored 61 percent of the goals. Separate, the Penguins scored less than 40 percent of the goals. It should be noted, Hagelin and Malkin were paired mostly in the second half of the season, so the numbers reflect the Penguins abysmal play until December. However, head coach Mike Sullivan’s creation of the Hagelin-Malkin-Patric Hornqvist line in January was one of the primary sparks for the Penguins mid-season turnaround.
Hagelin’s season doesn’t always begin when the NHL calendar dictates. After extensive playoff runs, Hagelin admitted it usually takes until Christmas before he finds his game. Last season, he was shuffled around the lineup before he found his stride in January.
Hagelin scored only 31 points (10g, 21a) which should provide Penguins GM Jim Rutherford a negotiating advantage but players don’t often accept a salary cut. Blame Anaheim General Manager Bob Murray who dished Hagelin’s original four-year, $16 million contract in hopes the Swedish LW would provide more offense.
As the salary cap continues to grow, and it’s expected to explode over the next few years as television and internet revenues jump and Seattle joins the NHL, $4 million doesn’t look bad. In fact, the Penguins inked 26-year-old Bryan Rust to a four-year deal with $14 million. Rust had a career year last season–he scored 38 points.
Tenacious, speedy players like Hagelin and Rust are part of the Penguins identity. They drive the attack and puck possession which keeps the puck on Crosby’s and Malkin’s sticks, which drives even more offense.
So, the market is set. Hagelin may get a little more than $4 million and it’s the Penguins who should give it to him.