Blackhawks reward hard-working Hagel with three-year deal
Brandon Hagel sat out the first three Blackhawks game last season, passed over for veterans like Matthew Highmore, Lucas Wallmark and Brandon Pirri.
But when Hagel made his season debut in Game 4, he seized the opportunity and never let it go.
The energy, grit, determination and fiery attitude that the undersized Saskatchewan native brought to the lineup made it impossible for coach Jeremy Colliton to take him out the rest of the way.
And on Friday, the former sixth-round pick was rewarded with a three-year, $4.5 million contract that runs through the 2023-24 season.
"Brandon's ascension to a regular role last season provided a huge boost to our team," said president of hockey operations and general manager Stan Bowman in a statement. "We were quite pleased with the growth he showed in his game and ability to handle tougher assignments."
Hagel, who missed just one other game after that opening stretch due to a positive COVID test, finished with 9 goals and 15 assists in 52 games. He was particularly impressive over a 31-game run that began in late February, racking up 8 goals and 11 assists.
During an interview last season, Hagel credited his hardworking parents for his tenacious attitude.
"My No. 1 goal is to give everything I got for them and bring it every night for them," Hagel said. "They helped me so much to get to this point. They sacrificed tons of things.
"If they're gonna do that, I need to pay it right back to them, just by giving them everything I've got every single night because I know they still do that. ... It's just something that comes close to home for me."
Hagel's relentlessness proved particularly useful in 3-on-3 overtimes. He notched a gorgeous assist on Pius Suter's game-winning goal in Dallas on February 9, then won games with OT goals at Columbus on April 10 and against Nashville two weeks later.
All season, Colliton loved how Hagel's effort was so contagious.
"That's what we're trying to build here," Colliton said. "Because that's the standard for how you're going to carry yourself.
"When you're on the ice, you have the responsibility for the team in your hands, and I just love how committed he is to doing the hard stuff every shift. The more of our guys we have doing that, the more success we're going to have."