The Washington Capitals are without Nicklas Backstrom for quite a bit, and Tom Wilson is out until December. But, beyond their two top-6 forwards, the team also remains without arguably their best penalty killer in Carl Hagelin.
Hagelin suffered a ruptured choroid after taking a stick to the left eye during competition drills to close out a March 1 practice. He underwent eye surgery that day and had another surgery later on, but the injury permanently took away some of the vision in his left eye and also impacted his depth perception, which can come back over time.
“Those first two weeks were some of the toughest in my life, especially early on when you can’t see anything… total darkness,” Hagelin said back in May.
During the offseason, Hagelin said he would go through intense eye training to get his depth perception back, and he would also rely on his good eye, which can compensate for his lack of vision in his left eye.
“It feels better every day when I do it, for sure. It’s still some depth perception stuff and obviously, looking down and looking up,” Hagelin described. “It’s sometimes hard to get that focus in right away, so that’s still work in progress. It’ll be a lot of eye training this summer, and I’m up for the challenge.”
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As of right now, general manager Brian MacLellan doesn’t have an update on No. 62 or whether or not he’ll be ready by the time training camp starts in September. He will get that information in August when Hagelin goes in for a follow-up to check in on his progress and recovery.
“He has a more of a later checkup in August for final determination of how the surgery completely healed or how much the surgery has done for his eyesight,” MacLellan explained. “So we’ll have to wait until that appointment to get a better indication of where he’s at.”
The 33-year-old laced ’em up for 53 games with Washington this past season, dishing three goals and 11 assists while registering a +/- of plus-10. His last game was on Feb. 28 against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Along with his ability on the PK, Hagelin was a fundamental piece of the powerhouse fourth line alongside Nic Dowd and Garnet Hathaway.
To fill Hagelin’s void, the Capitals utilized the likes of Lars Eller, Conor Sheary and Brett Leason on that trio before acquiring Johan Larsson at the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline. Larsson is a UFA.
MacLellan said he would address his pending free agents after the 2022 NHL Draft on Thursday. NHL Free Agency kicks off on July 13. Ultimately, Washington has a hefty to-do list. But, when it comes to Hagelin, it appears that promoting from within may be the solution given the uncertainty.