From the outside looking in, there was no guarantee the Washington Capitals or trade-deadline pickup Carl Hagelin would come to a contract agreement heading into the summer. Hagelin, a two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Pittsburgh Penguins, was coming off an expensive four-year, $16 million contract. With how close the Capitals were to the salary cap and how many important free agents they had now and in the future, a deal seemed far-fetched.
But late last week, after freeing up $3.405 million and addressing a need on defense (Radko Gudas) with the Matt Niskanen deal, the Caps found enough money to bring Hagelin back with a four-year, $11 million deal that’s worth $2.75 million per season.
According to Hagelin, he never even considered becoming an unrestricted free agent.
“When I got traded, I didn’t really know what to expect,” Hagelin said in a phone call with Capitals media. “Those 30 games I was able to play there gave me a better understanding of how good of a team it is and how much fun it is to play for the Caps. After the season ended… in the exit meeting, I told them I wanted to stay. I knew that there were some cap issues. I don’t think I ever thought about going to free agency.
“I was always hoping we’d be able to get a deal done,” Hagelin continued. “Ultimately it was between my agent and Mac. I didn’t have too many conversations with my agent, to be honest, I was traveling around in the US a little bit and I went back home to Sweden where I am now. Things happened pretty quickly and I was really happy. Like I said before, I was hoping for a longer term and maybe bring down my cap hit a little bit. I was able to get four years. Again, I’m extremely happy to get to be part of this organization.”
Beyond having fun in Washington, Hagelin also had a role he thrived in and he believes the Capitals’ Stanley Cup window is wide open for the immediate future.
“I wouldn’t have signed with Washington if I didn’t believe there’s still a good chance to win the Stanley Cup,” Hagelin said. “Like I’ve said before, it starts with having Ovi, Backy and having John Carlson, those players who have been in the league a long time and great leadership. Those were our best players in the playoffs last year and they’re going to continue to be that. That’s what I like about the team it’s a good mix of veteran guys, young guys, guys that aren’t that young but have been in the league for a while and understand the business.
“I stayed with Washington to have a chance to win,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate to be in the playoffs every year since I’ve been in the league. I’ve been to five conference finals and three Stanley Cup Finals. That’s what you love, being in those situations. Every time this time of year, you watch all these other teams play in the playoffs and play in the Finals and it pisses you off a bit. That’s where I want to get back to. If I didn’t think the Caps had a chance to play in the Finals and win the Stanley Cup, I wouldn’t have signed with them.”
Hagelin also commented on Capitals free agents Brett Connolly and fellow countryman Andre Burakovsky.
“Obviously, I liked every single guy that was on the team last year,” Hagelin said. “Both Conno and Burky were guys that I became very close with off the ice. I hope they’re still here, but at the end of the day Conno’s a UFA. It’s up to him what he wants and you understand if a guy wants to test the market to see what’s out there. I hope both those guys come back, they’re good friends and obviously great players.”
The 30-year-old Hagelin saw his career get rejuvenated in Washington as he turned the Capitals “from decent to deadly” down the stretch. After tallying eight points in 38 games with Pittsburgh and Los Angeles, Hagelin broke out in DC scoring 11 points in 20 games. The long-haired Swede became a key member on the penalty kill. At even strength, he tilted the ice for the Capitals, putting up a 54.7 five-on-five shot-attempt percentage. He also was one of the quickest players on a very fast team.
“What I like about Washington is it’s a good mix of a heavy team and speed team,” Hagelin said. “You look at St. Louis and what they did last summer, they brought in a lot of older veteran guys that turned out to be good players for them in the playoffs. I’m not sure there’s a formula to win, but I know that experience helps.”
Headline photo: Elizabeth Kong
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