As the NHL season hits the 20-game mark, fan hysteria inevitably shifts from unsustainable starts to trade talks, and this year, the hot button target seems to be Dougie Hamilton.
Calgary Flames hockey ops president Brian Burke has tried to quell the rumors, but they seem to be cranked out faster than he can stop them. The former Boston Bruins blueliner, dealt to the Flames for a bargain just hours ahead of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, has been circulated as a potentially available piece since the Flames realized that, once again, they’re starting out the year with a losing record.
Burke claims that the rumors have popped up because someone — and he’s accusing the Toronto Maple Leafs — called the Flames about Hamilton’s availability and then let it leak that they were asking around. By his accounts, the defenseman isn’t up for grabs.
But… what if he was?
Operating under the assumption that almost no NHL player should be untouchable, every GM who’s interested in a player should, at the very least, kick tires before writing an acquisition off. That’s likely what happened in Toronto. They figured (smartly) that there’s very little to lose in asking around about the cost of a player, and did so regarding the highly-sought-after Hamilton as soon as they figured the Flames may be sellers this year.
Of course, the Flames likely have a hefty asking price for anyone knocking about the defenseman. According to Darren Dreger, there’s a chance the Flames weren’t interested in what could have been a draft pick and Arizona Coyotes forward Anthony Duclair, so one has to believe that they’re looking for a much bigger package.
It’s worth examining, though — what would that price be, and who would be able to pay it?
As a right-shot defenseman (and a top pairing one at that), Hamilton offers a service that plenty of NHL clubs are looking for. The market for right-handed blue liners this summer was almost comical; put on a blindfold and throw a dart at the map of North America and you’re bound to hit a club that needs help on the right side.
The Flames don’t hold all the cards, though.
Although Burke is (unsurprisingly) denying any interest in dealing Hamilton out, the Flames could use another defenseman to expose in the Las Vegas expansion draft. At the moment, the Flames have limited options for blueliners already under contract — only Dougie Hamilton, Mark Giordano, and TJ Brodie are under contract for next year.
The team could easily re-sign Jyrki Jokipakka and expose him, but if they could get a player to expose and a good prospect, such as RHD Michael Stone and either prospect Kyle Wood or Anthony DeAngelo from the Arizona Coyotes, they may be more willing to part with Hamilton.
DeAngelo or Wood has the potential to eventually replace Hamilton, and Stone gives them another defenseman at the NHL level so they have more exposure options.
There’s also the possibility that they’d want to pick up an older, more established right-shot defenseman.
Dougie Hamilton is just 23, so trying to find a way to move him for Kevin Shattenkirk, which would give the St. Louis Blues a quality defenseman still under contract and the Flames someone with a bit more experience, could benefit both teams.
Of course, though, these are all likely just pipe dreams.
Among Calgary’s top three defensemen – Hamilton, Brodie, and Giordano – Hamilton has the best possession numbers through the start of the season. He’s also the third highest-scoring player on the team so far (ahead of even forward Johnny Gaudreau) and has 10 more shots on goal than Giordano (and a whopping 28 more than Brodie).
The Flames picked up a massive plus for their roster when they acquired him, and they know it. It would take a trade that yielded an almost identical player, it seems reasonable to assume, to convince them to part with his services.
This summer, the Nashville Predators dealt captain Shea Weber to the Montreal Canadiens for fellow defenseman P.K. Subban, but direct swaps of position players are extremely rare. That was likely the last time we’ll see a trade of its kind over the next season, if not the next handful of seasons, so examining what it would take to get Hamilton likely only yields reasonable trades, not realistic ones.
Still, there’s rarely a player that can’t be moved at the right price – so if NHL GM’s continue to give Brian Burke and Flames general manger Brad Treliving a call, eventually one may have their asking price.
It’s just not very likely.