I don’t know why Dougie Hamilton’s name has crept up again in trade talks, but if there’s anything to be learned from the last time it did, these situations can evolve into something quickly. [See also: P.K. Subban this past June.]
There seems to be plenty of debate among insiders and Flames fans alike about just how much substance there is to Calgary’s willingness to ship Hamilton out, but as an outsider looking at things from the perspective of another team, I don’t want to get too much into that. The name is out there for a reason. If Brad Treviling is fielding calls on this guy, Lou Lamoriello should be hopping on the phone as soon as possible.
The idea of the Flames souring on Hamilton after one year is a bit absurd, but considering their relatively rough start and their blue-line being seen as a point of strength, it’s not all that surprising to see some “they need to shake things up” talk floating about. With that in mind, let’s take a look at how Hamilton could help Toronto if they were to pursue him, and what he might cost in a swap.
First off, Hamilton is a 23-year-old defender and still has essentially his entire prime left. To put it into perspective, he’s just 11 months older than Morgan Rielly, and already has two 40+ point seasons under his belt. Physically he’s just a monster, listed at 6’6 and 210 pounds (though I’m sure that weight number is dated).
At a glance he’s no doubt an intriguing player. But there’s a lot more in his game to like.
Hamilton is one of those right-handed top pairing defenders that seem to be unicorns in today’s NHL. We hear so much about teams looking for them basically any time trade rumours start to kick into gear, and the Leafs are a team that arguably need one more than any other team in the league.
Hamilton would slot in with either Rielly or Gardiner in the top four and solidify that group almost immediately. I suppose the only argument against playing him alongside Rielly is that neither have shown to be particularly strong in terms of shot-suppression, but running Zaitsev-Rielly and Gardiner-Hamilton would be fine anyway if you don’t want to have the most fun (and anxiety-inducing) Rielly-Hamilton pairing helping pepper the hell out of teams when it comes to attacking. It’s worth noting Hamilton was the second-highest-scoring Flames player in terms of powerplay production last season, at 4.77 points-per-sixty, behind only Sean Monahan.
Hamilton would almost surely improve the Leafs’ weak blueline drastically right now and through the next few years, but what would Treviling require in return for someone he gave up three draft picks for just a year ago? It’s really tough to get a handle on what the Flames are doing.
I would assume, looking at Calgary’s depth chart, that given they’re dealing from a position of strength on defence, and the fact they traded for a goalie this past summer, they want to bolster their forward group in some capacity. And considering they’ve given up the most goals against in the league and sit 23rd in terms of score-adjusted Corsi, the Flames are likely eyeing players who are strong on both sides of the puck. But who knows? Maybe they just want to hit reset in a sense and bring in some good futures while clearing out money. Hamilton carries a $5.75-million tag for this season and four more, which should be great value through his prime seasons, and something the Leafs could easily manage for a core piece.
The best the Leafs can do for the Flames is probably offer up a strong prospect like Kasperi Kapanen and some picks, or entertain unloading a solid play-driving roster forward like Kadri. But again, given how the Flames look in terms of their roster make-up and where their expectations likely are with aspirations for contending now, it’s tough to speculate.
When it comes to these potential trade targets that pop up here or there, the main thing to keep in mind from a Toronto perspective is that the organization has a good stable of prospects and a roster that’s on the rise, so they can get very creative if they want to go after a player like Hamilton, who in this case would surely help shore up their shakiest position.