The last time the Calgary Flames had a mid-first round pick at the NHL Draft, they really, really needed to bolster their blueline. And then they did just that, sacrificing their pick – plus two others – to pick up Dougie Hamilton in a move absolutely nobody saw coming.
This year, the Flames have a mid-first round pick and really, really need to bolster their blueline. Travis Hamonic’s name will not stop popping up, and the Flames have repeatedly said to be interested in him. However, the initial asking price is high – two first round picks high, which is too damn high. That should come down if the Islanders are serious about moving him – Hamilton didn’t even cost that much – but the question is, should the Flames be trying to acquire him in the first place?
Calgary’s need for another top four defencemen isn’t exactly a secret. While Hamilton and Mark Giordano worked great together, T.J. Brodie was forced to pick up the scraps with Dennis Wideman, Michael Stone, or Deryk Engelland, depending on the day. He had one of his worst seasons in recent memory, and it’s reasonable to believe his lack of a quality partner was part of that. Picking up another top four defencemen should be of great benefit to not only him, but the Flames as a whole.
Who is Hamonic?
Hamonic is a 6’2, 205 lb. right-shooting defender who will be 27 by the time the 2017-18 season starts. He scored 14 points in 49 games this past season, and according to Puckalytics, had a 5v5 CF of 44.04% – not just the worst among all regular Islanders defencemen, but the third worst among all NHL defencemen who played at least 500 minutes this past season. Only Rasmus Ristolainen and Michael Stone’s (!) numbers were worse.
For reference, the next worst Islanders defender – Adam Pelech – is ranked 30 slots higher than Hamonic is.
And that’s maybe the part that gives you pause about trading him – especially when the cost could involve the 16th overall pick, the Islanders have no first of their own to recoup that loss for the Flames, and Calgary has no more picks until the fourth round. A then-22-year-old Hamilton may have been worth that. A Hamonic who’s about five years older and putting up approximately zero numbers that look good is probably not.
Granted, it was just that: one season. In 2015-16, Hamonic’s 5v5 CF placed 77th out of 198 total defenders. In 2014-15, it was 93rd out of 204. Aggregate the three seasons together, and among NHL defencemen who played at least 1,500 5v5 minutes from 2014-17, Hamonic places 122nd out of 191.
Last season does appear to be an outlier, but you can’t risk a cost that high on a season that bad, even if he returns to form – keeping in mind that his overall form was not exactly spectacular to begin with. Decent, yes. But if Brad Treliving opted for Mike Smith over Antti Raanta, he absolutely cannot take what he would have spent on Raanta and use it on a player who was literally one of the worst in the entire NHL this past season. Hamonic’s price would have to come way, way, way down – and even then, it’s still a pretty big risk.
Is there someone else?
Not trading for Hamonic still doesn’t get the Flames that much-needed top four defenceman. But another player’s name has come up: Jason Demers, who Florida left exposed for the expansion draft, and is reportedly still willing to move.
Demers is a 29-year-old right-shooting defenceman who’s 6’1, 200 lbs., and scored 28 points in 81 games this past season. He had a 5v5 CF of 49.00%, 116th among 197 defenders with at least 500 minutes played in 2016-17. Over the past three seasons, he ranks 29th out of 191 defenders – almost 100 slots higher than Hamonic.
Via OwnThePuck, here’s a side by side comparison of the two (and for the record, keep it in mind that over their past three seasons, their offensive zone starts are virtually identical):
Demers may be a little older, but by literally every other measure – traditional counting stats, underlying numbers, absolutely everything – he is the better bet. And if he’s as available as Florida says he is, he probably is not going to cost two first round picks. His contract may be a year longer and like, about $650k more expensive in cap hit, but if the difference between these two is so great, it is absolutely worth it for the rise in on-ice quality alone.
And that’s not even to say the Flames should trade for Demers. There may be other, better options available.
But no, the Flames should not be trying to get Hamonic.