Dougie Hamilton being shopped as a sign and trade, and how interest should the Leafs be?

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So this might be less of a rumour and more of a factual statement based on what Elliotte Friedman is reporting, and what Darren Dreger is confirming. It might also not involve the Leafs in anyway, but given the lack of other rumours out there and the fact that Toronto fans have speculated on Hamilton joining the Leafs since pretty much the day Toronto’s pick was used by Boston to draft him, we might as well join in and talk about Dougie Hamilton this week.

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First off, I want to remind you that your museum joke isn’t particularly clever. So stop it. All variations of museums, Moxies, etc. have been covered off, and you can just let this go.

Secondly, Hamilton is essentially going to be this summer’s Alex Pietrangelo and his contract came in at $8.8M as a 30 year old.

Hamilton might be a step down talent-wise from Pietrangelo, but could make up that ground by being two years younger than Pietrangelo was when he signed. The fact that teams will be in a bidding war for his services over the next few weeks both on negotiating a price with Hamilton and then securing his release from the Canes will make it an interesting scenario, and one that isn’t going to see Hamilton’s price fall below $8M. We live in a world where a team gave Jacob Trouba an $8M/yr cap hit. Hamilton around $9M seems likely even in a flat cap, with Evolving Hockey projecting him to make $8.5M over a seven year deal before factoring in the goofiness of the bidding war we are about to watch teams partake in.

The fact that Hamilton is making a play for the 8th year of deal isn’t much of a surprise either. Considering that he’s bounced from Boston to Calgary to Carolina already in his career, it’s highly likely he’s seeking a lot of stability from here on out and wants to be a part of a team moving forward, not just a highly skilled mercenary. This particular situation could not workout any better for the Canes.

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The Hurricanes find themselves in a situation where they’ve got the opportunity to build a great understanding of the market for one of their top defenders, and will be able to match the best offers out there, or at the very least recoup something for losing a high caliber player. What exactly they’ll get for the ability to have Hamilton under contract early and for Hamilton to get the 8th year on his contract remains to be seen, but it’s certainly better than nothing.

Of course that brings us back around to an important question, and that is whether or not the Leafs should be one of the teams to pursue Dougie Hamilton.

The first thing that comes to mind is that the Canes are the blueprint organization for doing analytics right, and the fact that they are willing to let Hamilton walk should at least make us reflect on the following:

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  • Is $8M/yr too much to spend on even a top tier defenseman? Are teams better off with building out their blueline the way the Canes blueline existed last season with 4 or 5 guys in the $4M-$6M range that play at a high level. Of course, they have the benefit of locking in a couple of those players at below market value.
  • Do we need to be scared of giving even good players term? I’d argue yes. While a 28 year old seems like you are getting a player still in their prime, that doesn’t change that there will be some regrettable years on the contract. Seemingly the Canes aren’t willing to risk those, and while the Leafs might be more interested in that, adding another long term player eating up 10% of their salary cap isn’t the no brainer some will argue it as.

The fit for Dougie Hamilton on the Leafs isn’t a particularly complicated one to figure out. He’d 100% be a bonafide top defenseman. Better defensively than Rielly, better offensively than Muzzin, and a right side shot to boot. He’s checking a lot of boxes for what Leafs fans have been after, even if it is a challenge to figure out how to afford him, though arguably you buy on Hamilton now, and figure out how to afford him later.

If the Leafs were to act on Hamilton that either allows them to run a blueline featuring Hamilton, Rielly, Brodie, and Muzzin, or it allows them to explore the option of trading Rielly’s final year for a pretty decent return. Considering that Hamilton would provide an upgrade, provide some security for the future, and allow the Leafs to recoup some of the futures they’ve lost in chasing playoff dreams this year, that’s not a bad option.

Alternatively, they could keep Rielly, and make some decisions with the forward group. Either shedding Kerfoot’s salary, and sticking with low budget, no frills bottom six, or trading someone like Marner which allows for greater cap flexibility to bring in an elite defenseman. Either way, these aren’t things you need to figure out until you’ve got Hamilton under contract. Don’t talk yourself out of him before he’s here.

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So to recap, here’s what we know about the Dougie Hamilton situation:

  • He’s available
  • He’s gonna cost a lot
  • He’s gonna want an 8 year deal
  • He’s very good
  • The Leafs should probably call about him
  • There’s going to be a lot of teams competing for him

It’s probably that last one that sticks out to me the most. Someone is going to do something extra stupid. Either pay Hamilton a number that starts with a 9 or 10, or they are going to give the Hurricanes a legitimate asset to make this work. Doing either of those things hold much interest for me as there isn’t a single road to success in putting a good Leafs roster together and Hamilton isn’t a make or break acquisition for them. The Leafs have at least one top six forward position that will need addressing. There is a need for adding some center depth, and unless the plan is to play Jack Campbell 82 games a season, they probably want to upgrade their backup goaltender so Michael Hutchinson isn’t see a lot of time on the Leafs.

It’s certainly worth making calls to Dougie Hamilton’s agent, but I’d be shocked if we see Hamilton in a Leafs jersey anytime soon.