Our look at possible targets for the Seattle Kraken in this month’s expansion draft began with James van Riemsdyk, continued with a defensive option in Shayne Gostisbehere, and today chugs along by dissecting a significantly less costly option for the NHL’s newest club.
2021 Statistical Overview: 2 G, 3 A in 34 GP | 15.40 TOI/G | 46.20 5-on-5 xGF%
Contract: Signed through 2021-22 at $1,600,000 per year
Current Player Evaluation
The 26-year-old former second-round pick (41st overall in 2013) is rather an easy current evaluation.
His possession metrics at 5-on-5 have never been very strong compared to his teammates — he’s lagged far behind his teammates in terms of Corsi-For Relative in three of the last four years — and he doesn’t make up for it with high-end offense or outstanding work on special teams, either. Further, it took a jump to 60% of his shifts starting in the offensive zone for Hagg’s even strength metrics to finally break even in terms of his teammates this past season — showing that even when given ample opportunity Hagg simply isn’t driving play.
But to pretend like Hagg isn’t at worst a serviceable third pair NHL defenseman would be ignoring the fact that he remains a solid penalty killer capable of playing unspectacular minutes on a team with a good top-four playing ahead of him to slide into a defined role. And while Hagg hasn’t shown the ability to warrant more of a role that on the third pair, he’s a cheap option to fill out the lineup with some penalty kill duties and ideally he sheltered at 5-on-5 away from other teams’ top players.
You could also do worse than the Swede as a third pair defender — and the Flyers have certainly entertained some of those options in the last few years — so long as he stays in that role and doesn’t get elevated above where the comfort zone for his ability is.
Long-Term Player Evaluation
The thing about Hagg is that we’ve got a pretty solid sample size that he is what he is, and that we’ve very likely seen his ceiling — and while not particularly high, it is something.
Given his limitations athletically, it’s not as though Hagg has room to grow besides turning into a sound, stay-at-home defender who’s an ace penalty killer and can be counted on to help erase second-tier scoring options.
But Hagg has shown major issues with defensive coverage — to be fair who on the Flyers didn’t last year — and often hems himself in his own zone with failed clear attempts and breakout passes alike.
And despite being serviceable as a third pair defenseman in his current form, nothing we’ve seen from 236 career games at the NHL level has suggested that he could evolve further than his current form.
He’s just kind of settled in as an option for an NHL team to field on defense with expected results that are neither poor enough to keep him in the press box and not good enough to vault him into a larger role beyond a defender capable of sheltered third pair minutes and average work while soaking up penalty kill time.
In other words: his ceiling has already been reached, and it’s more or less the floor.
Given that Hagg is neither an offensive dynamo nor a shutdown defense, he’s unlikely to ever truly break the bank.
We’ve seen NHL GMs pony up for stay-at-home defenseman in the past — and largely regret it — but they made their money on a true calling card by brining elite defense while failing to provide much on the other end. Hagg doesn’t do either of those things at that level, but is young at 26 and has enough mobility and availability to keep his price tag in the lower range for NHL defensemen these days.
If the Flyers lost Hagg to the Kraken, it wouldn’t free up much cash to spend, but it also wouldn’t hamstring them if No. 8 were to return to the roster next season.
Potential Value to Seattle
If Seattle’s goal is to find a cheap, serviceable third pair defenseman for their initial roster then they can get one in Hagg. And heck, if held in that role by the coaching staff, there’s a chance that he could even excel there with a scenery change, too.
But that’s not exactly a high bar, and after the Vegas Golden Knights set themselves up for years of success off their own expansion draft — the Kraken will be looking for impactful options to help them win on day one and beyond.
It’s not that Hagg couldn’t help them there, but they’d almost have to crush it everywhere else in terms of other selections in order to take a player like Hagg here given the role that he’s best suited — and essentially proved to be able — to play. That happened with the Golden Knights, who took the useful but more unheralded Pierre-Edouard Bellemare from the Flyers in 2017.
Potential Losses for Philadelphia
If back, Hagg figures to again be in the mix for a role in the lineup night-in and night-out. That likely applies no matter what additions GM Chuck Fletcher can — or can’t — make elsewhere on defense.
However, if Seattle takes Hagg, that means that Fletcher will be looking for a replacement either in-house or on the market. His loss would be far from glaring, but given that the Flyers’ general manager is already looking to add at least one or two quality defenders, he’d potentially be in the market for a third — or essentially half of a starting defense. Not optimum.
Some in-house options would be the likes of Cam York, and Yegor Zamula among others. If outside the organization, names like David Savard, Mike Reilly, and Ian Cole could be intriguing lower-tier options below the likes of Dougie Hamilton and some of the high-profile trade options like Seth Jones.
Hagg is best friends with Oskar Lindblom, and that guy rules so that’s really cool for him.
Also, new Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol was seemingly a fan of Hagg, so he could potentially pound the table for the rugged — if unspectacular — defender to add to his defensive corps on the rather cheap.
If we’re handicapping this one, we’d put Hagg’s chances of getting selected at 25%. Seattle has more intriguing options from the Flyers’ likely pool to choose from, though they could pluck the Swede if they’re successful raiding more costly talent from other clubs and slide him into an inaugural defensive corps like Andrew MacDonald sliding aimlessly around an odd-man rush.