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Hagelin? How About Hagelout?

When every dollar matters, every dollar matters

NHL: Nashville Predators at Washington Capitals Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Carl Hagelin is having a rough season.

How rough? Well, through nearly half a season, the 33-year-old wing has put the puck in the net just three times... and two of those were into empty nets... and one of those was his own goal.

Brutal. And somewhat emblematic of a campaign in which (so far, at least), little has gone right or well for Hagelin, who recently did a stint on the COVID list. Let’s take a deeper dive, shall we?

Offense

Hagelin has never been expected to be a big offensive contributor in Washington (except, of course, when he was playing for other teams in the postseason). But after scoring 17 goals in his first 134 regular-season games for the Caps prior to this season, he’s tallied just twice in 38 games in 2021-22, with one of those being an empty-netter.

via HockeyViz

That’s one “real” goal on 52 shots. Bad luck? Yes. Bad offensive hockey player? Also yes. Hagelin’s already modest offensive numbers have slipped nearly across-the-board in each full season in Washington, whether we’re talking shot- or scoring chance-generation, expected goals or actual production.

Defense

But at least he plays good defense, right? Well...

via HockeyViz

The Caps are actually playing better defense with Hagelin off the ice than when he’s on. Granted, that lacks the context of Hagelin’s line often facing opponents’ toughest lines, protecting leads, heavy defensive-zone deployment, etc. But having the team’s second-highest expected Goals-Against rate at fives ahead of only Daniel Sprong doesn’t exactly scream “Selke candidate.”

At least he’s a great penalty killer?

via HockeyViz

Is he, though?

And that actually brings us to our next area of inquiry...

Discipline

Any strengths Hagelin might have as a penalty killer are being more or less obliterated by the rate at which he’s taking (and not drawing) penalties.

via MoneyPuck

For every penalty minute he’s drawing, Hagelin is taking three. For a team that’s giving up power-play goals at a much higher clip than they’re scoring them, that’s a problem. Even big penalty-takers like Nic Dowd and Garnet Hathaway are at or near break-even.

So what is Carl Hagelin right now? He’s a poor offensive forward with some defensive skill and a bad penalty differential. Put it together, and he’s arguably (arguably?) been the Caps’ worst regular skater this season:

via Evolving-Hockey

What you see there is a player who is a net negative contributor in even-strength offense and defense (dark blue and orange, respectively) and penalty differential (green and yellow), and a small positive in terms of short-handed defense.

He’s also ninth among Caps forwards in per game ice time (10th at even-strength).

And he carries a $2.75-million cap hit through the end of next season... all for a fourth-percentile player:

via Evolving-Hockey

Look, Carl Hagelin is not the entirety or even necessarily a particularly significant aspect of what is wrong with the Caps right now. And he seems like a well-liked teammate. But he’s also not what is right with the Caps right now. And his presence on the roster, unfortunately, makes it more difficult to address any of it, from going out and acquiring a goalie player at the deadline to making room for Anthony Mantha to come off injured reserve when he’s ready to go. So it’s probably time for them to get younger (and cheaper) by whatever means necessary, and there’s an in-house option that makes perfect sense:

via Evolving-Hockey

Is Axel Jonsson-Fjallby ($750,000 cap hit) the answer? Maybe. Maybe not. But Carl Hagelin’s value has gotten to the point where it’s clear that he’s hurting the team more than he’s helping it. And it’s time to move on.