Drake Caggiula was playing video games with some of his friends at his home in Edmonton last month when his phone buzzed. It was a text from his agent letting him know that there were rumors swirling that Oilers might trade him.
The news caught 24-year-old left winger off guard.
Sure, Caggiula hadn’t been happy with how he had played so far this season. He posted only posted only 11 points (seven goals, four assists) in 29 games with the Oilers and spent a short amount of time on the injured reserve with a hand injury.
Before he even had time to reflect on the possibility of playing somewhere other than Edmonton where he’d been for the last two and some seasons, Caggiula received a call within 30 minutes that he and defenseman Jason Garrison had been traded to the Blackhawks in exchange for defenseman Brandon Manning.
“It happened pretty quick and unexpectedly,” Caggiula said Saturday.
While most players hop on the first flight out to meet with their new team, Caggiula, a native of Ontario, was stuck in Edmonton as the Hawks worked to expedite his visa application. The extra time gave Caggiula, who had never been traded before, an opportunity to prepare for Chicago.
“I was able to gather my stuff at the apartment and make sure I had everything ready to go,” Caggiula said.
As Caggiula organized his belongings, his focus was still on playing hockey.
“This whole week I’ve been trying to find places to skate,” he said. “I was able to find a junior team in Edmonton to skate, to keep my legs and momentum going. It’s obviously not the same as an NHL practice, but at least I was able to get on the ice and keep my feet underneath me and hopefully I’m able to step right in and play.”
But Caggiula also knows that’s easier said than done.
Jeremy Colliton will be Caggiula’s third coach this season since the Oilers fired Todd McLellan and replaced him with Ken Hitchcock in November. That means this will be the third time in the last two months Caggiula will be challenged with learning a new system.
But he isn’t fazed by the task.
“Hockey is still hockey,” he said. “You play your game. [The Hawks] were pretty clear with me when I got traded, they just want me to play my game and not playing any other style.
“Obviously there’s going to be a bit of a learning curve. I think they play a little bit of a different style than what I’m used to in Edmonton, but it should be an easy transition. I got a lot of people here already talking to me, helping me through the process.”
After a tough stretch in Edmonton, Caggiula is ready to prove his worth to the Hawks, who assigned forwards Dylan Sikura and Andreas Martinsen to Rockford in order to make room for him.
“[I] wasn’t disappointed in my game [with the Oilers] but there are definitely areas I want to improve in and that’s a little bit more of the consistency in the offensive sides of things,” Caggiula said.
“Excited to finally be here. It’s been a long week and hopefully [I’ll] get into a game soon.”
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