Carl Hagelin wanted stability and a chance to win the Stanley Cup again.
The forward believes he has both after signing a four-year, $11 million contract with the Washington Capitals on Sunday.
Hagelin, who won the Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016 and 2017, could have become an unrestricted free agent July 1. But the 30-year-old felt comfortable with the Capitals after they acquired him from the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 21 and wanted to stay despite their seven-game loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference First Round.
"When I got traded to Washington, I didn't really know what to expect, but those (27) 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," Hagelin said Monday. "After the season, you're left with a bitter taste obviously, not making it as far as we wanted in the [Stanley Cup] Playoffs, but in my exit meetings, I told them I wanted to stay if we could find something."
Video: TBL@WSH: Hagelin roofs puck past Vasilevskiy
Hagelin, who had 11 points (three goals, eight assists) in 20 regular-season games and one assist in seven playoff games with Washington, was aware that the Capitals were tight against the NHL salary cap, so he wasn't sure if it would work out.
Washington created some cap space by trading defenseman Matt Niskanen to the Philadelphia Flyers for defenseman Radko Gudas on Friday.
Niskanen has two years remaining at $5.75 million per season on a seven-year contract he signed July 1, 2014, to join Washington as a free agent. The Flyers retained 30 percent of Gudas' contract, which has one season remaining.
"Things happened pretty quick then," Hagelin said. "I was really happy. I was hoping for a longer term, maybe bring down my cap hit a little bit if I was able to get four years."
Hagelin's contract carries an average annual value of $2.75 million. The four-year term was important to him.
A sixth-round pick of the New York Rangers (No. 168) in the 2007 NHL Draft, Hagelin played four seasons in New York but has been traded four times since then: to the Anaheim Ducks on June 27, 2015, to Pittsburgh on Jan. 16, 2016, to Los Angeles on Nov. 14, 2018, and to Washington.
"The plan is for me now to be with the Washington Capitals for four years," Hagelin said. "I think that was one of the keys for me to stay -- to get good term. I've moved around a lot. Not my first four years in the league, but the last four years. But then it's up to you as a player. You need to show up every day. At the end of the day, that's how it works in this league. You're never going to be given anything."
Hagelin has 241 points (93 goals, 148 assists) in 546 NHL regular-season games and 48 points (22 goals, 26 assists) in 128 playoff games. This season was the first in his career when he lost in the first round.
But with much of the core intact from when the Capitals won the Stanley Cup last season, including captain Alex Ovechkin, center Nicklas Backstrom and defenseman John Carlson, Hagelin believes the window remains open for them to win another championship.
"I stayed with Washington to have a chance to win," Hagelin said. "I've been fortunate to be in the playoffs every year since I got in the League and I've been to five conference finals and three Stanley Cup Finals and that's what you love, being in those situations and every time around this time of year you watch all these other teams play in the playoffs and play in the finals and it [ticks] you off a little bit. So that's what I want to get back to, and 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."