Today’s Daily Cup of Joe considers the rumors making the rounds that the Carolina Hurricanes could trade Dougie Hamilton.
It is no secret that the Hurricanes are overstocked on the blue line, especially the right side. Right now, the team has five defensemen who would qualify as top 4 defensemen both in terms of salary and also filling that role at the NHL level. As of today, Dougie Hamilton is a top 4 defenseman playing in a third pairing role below Justin Faulk, Calvin de Haan, Jaccob Slavin and Brett Pesce. In addition, Trevor van Riemsdyk is a proven third pairing defenseman. When one does the math, the team has four right shot defensemen in its lineup, the extra top 4 defenseman is also a right shot.
On top of the current lineup situation, the Hurricanes also have the rights to Adam Fox. Fox is a right shot, offensive defense prospect who was obtained in the summer trade with Calgary. He is currently tearing up the NCAA and by many estimates could be read to jump into the NHL if he signs a contract. If he is in fact signed, he could quickly make the Canes five deep on the right side of the blue line.
All of that suggests that the Hurricanes could afford to trade a right shot defenseman.
On the offensive side of the ledger, the Canes forward group is heavy on youth and a bit light on proven scoring talent. The team has struggled intermittently this season in terms of scoring and even with the recent winning streak still ranks 27th in goals per game. The team could use at least one more scoring forward.
In fact, my belief is that the Hurricanes plan all along was to trade a right shot defenseman in Justin Faulk over the summer to add a forward and back fill the whole left by Jeff Skinner’s departure. In an article before the de Haan signing I detailed a set of interrelated moves. I was correct that the Hurricanes would sign de Haan and also that Skinner would be traded for futures. But when the market for a Faulk trade did not materialize, the team came up one move short of completing the summer plan and left itself short at the forward position.
Fast forward to today, and the Carolina Hurricanes still have an extra right shot defenseman and could use another proven scoring forward.
Enter Dougie Hamilton and the rumors around him
In his 31 thoughts, Elliotte Friedman suggested that the Hurricanes could be willing to trade Hamilton. While I agree that there would be a market for Hamilton, I think the situation is not as simple as just trading him to the highest bidder.
Some might suggest that because he is the lowest of the five top 4 defensemen right now playing in the third pairing he should be dealt. I am hesitant to make that hasty decision.
First, though ideal would have been for him to hit the ground running, I think it is reasonable to allow an adjustment period for Hamilton with a new team. In addition, there are signs that he might be turning the corner. He has four points in his last four games including three goals. So there is hope that Hamilton could be exactly the offensive difference-maker that the Canes thought they acquired in June.
Hamilton is also signed for two more years at a reasonable price assuming he plays at a high level. Faulk is currently under contract only for one more year.
Considering the options
In addition to Hamilton the other right shot defensemen are Faulk, Pesce and van Riemsdyk.
Though van Riemsdyk would have value as a depth defenseman, I do not see him as a substitute for trading Hamilton simply because I do not see van Riemsdyk garnering the same type of return as the other three. So he would not net the needed scoring help.
I am on record as preferring to keep Pesce. I see him as the most underrated of the Canes defensemen. I also would be reluctant to give up his modest $4 million salary. In an NHL where salary cap matters, Pesce gets credit for being a good player but also for his low salary for this role.
Faulk was very likely on the trading block as rumored during the off-season. He has since rebounded defensively such that many are now suggesting that the team should re-sign and keep him. While that is definitely a possibility, I think the Canes could benefit from selling high(er) on Faulk based on the step up he has taken in 2018-19.
Hamilton would definitely have trade value and is clearly an option if the trade value is high enough. He needs to find a higher gear to live up to expectations. but I think I it is premature to just assume that he will not do so.
What I would do
If I was the general manager, I would try to hold the course on the original plan. I would sell high on Faulk probably to a Cup contender in return for a veteran scoring forward.
Unless the return is wildly high, I would keep Hamilton. Especially with his recent scoring outburst, I would show a bit more patience to see if he can round into form and be the elite defenseman for whom the Hurricanes had thought they had traded.
Once the deal is done to clear a bit more blue line space, I would make a push to ink Adam Fox to a contract.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Do you believe the Dougie Hamilton trade rumblings are legitimate?
2) If you were the general manager, what would you do with this situation right now?