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Photo Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Why did the Flames make the Dougie Hamilton trade?

Why did the Flames make the Dougie Hamilton trade? Isn’t that the question?

When the rumours started flowing in that the Flames and Hurricane were heading towards central registry on the draft floor, the first reaction was: “Elias Lindholm is a Flame.” After all, he had been rumoured to be on his way out and the Flames were among the top suitors for him.

Not long after, we learned the deal was bigger than just Lindholm. It involved former fifth overall pick in 2015 Noah Hanifin as well. Uh oh. That’s a pretty significant package coming to Calgary, they must be giving up something significant in return. However, that’s what we all thought when the Flames acquired Dougie Hamilton in 2015, and it only ended up being a first and two seconds.

Not this time.

After 18 months of being the Flames’ best offensive defenceman – their second best rearguard overall – and being involved in countless trade rumours, Dougie Hamilton’s time in Calgary was over.

As Flames fans were trying to digest the fact that Hamilton was headed to Carolina for Hanifin and Lindholm, the final bomb dropped. It wasn’t just Hamilton.

Dagger.

Not only did the Flames give up far and away the best ice hockey player in the deal, but they also threw in their cheap 20-goal bull Micheal Ferland and quite possibly the second best prospect in the organization, NCAA standout rearguard Adam Fox. Carolina’s side of the deal remained the same.

Madness ensued on Twitter, where Hamilton has a throng of supporters, and rightfully so. Not only is he one of the premier young defencemen in the league on a team-friendly contract, but many identify with what appears to be a soft spoken, shy and seemingly introverted personality. To expedite him out of town because he’s different than the classic confident, bro-dude hockey player, was mind boggling.

But even so, his value league-wide should be incredibly high given both his counting and underlying numbers. Why the need to throw in a 20-goal scorer and a bluechip prospect? Well, that’s what I tried to figure out.

Why Hamilton?

What is important to understand before reading on is that I think this justification is absurd and I do not condone it. I am but the messenger of compiled information that paints a picture as to why the Flames were inclined to move on from the league’s leading goalscorer from the backend, so put your guns away please.

From the second the Flames acquired Hamilton, all we read about him was that he was a little shyer than everyone, a little odder than everyone, a little quieter than everyone. Media in Boston tried to justify their giving him away for just a first and two seconds by calling him a “loner”, and saying he had no friends in the dressing room.

Real nice.

Hamilton seems like one of the nicest human beings on this planet, and all he got for it was constant character bashing for minding his own business, and preferring to do so.

The talk about his personality didn’t subside in Calgary, and a bizarre narrative surrounding the Flames keeping his brother Freddie on the roster because he required it, so that he could have a friend, emerged on Twitter. No one seemed to notice that Freddie Hamilton fit the perfect mould of a 13th NHL forward that every team carries. He was there because of Dougie in the eyes of many. Freddie Hamilton eventually moved on to Arizona, where he played the same exact role.

I would contend that over past year, Dougie Hamilton has absorbed more potshots and hate over his seemingly introverted personality than many other NHL players, past and present, including those who have been accused of serious criminal offences.

Following the completion of the trade, Flames GM Brad Treliving joined Sportsnet 960 and Pat Steinberg to talk about the move, and indicated it was made in large part due to off-ice considerations:

It sure sounds like they felt Hamilton’s personality became an issue, for whatever reason, and that the locker room was affected by it. Sportsnet’s John Shannon was on SN960 following the trade as well and said issues with Hamilton included “when the entire team would go for lunch at Moxie’s, Hamilton would go to a museum.”

Yikes. Save that for Hockey Taeks Hall of Fame. We would be foolish to assume that Hamilton skipping out on lunch for museums is the motivator for this trade, but it sure seemed like Hamilton wasn’t as integrated into the locker room as the Flames would’ve liked.

Some of us (read: everyone at FN) think that’s an absurd reason to deal someone when they’re an incredible value add on the ice, but after the Vegas Golden Knights turned an atomic-tight dressing room bond into a Stanley Cup Final appearance, it’s clear the Flames brass feel differently.

It’s no secret Treliving felt his player mix was an issue and contributed to the team missing the playoffs, and trading Hamilton for Hanifin – who is already tight with Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk through USA Hockey – would be an upgrade in the room, if not on the ice.

Hanifin is just 21 years old, and was drafted out of the NCAA as a projected 1D, though his progression through two seasons doesn’t rule out his developing into exactly that. The issue is that Hamilton, at 25, already is that.

What this also does is return TJ Brodie to his safety blanket Mark Giordano, and the Flames will bank the “Brodano” pairing can return to its once elite state. They were never as good as Giordano-Hamilton were, but they were excellent nonetheless. It also removes Brodie from his dumpster fire pairing with Travis Hamonic, who looked good when separated from Brodie last year. The Flames will hope Hamonic can combine with Hanifin to create the coveted 1B pairing they had in mind when they acquired Hamonic in the first place.

It’s a lot of hope, but if the Flames turn their one elite pairing and one trash pairing into two above average pairings, then the merits of this trade perhaps begin to show themselves. History has shown though – *cough* Taylor Hall *cough* PK Subban *cough* – giving away the best player in a trade is usually the kiss of death.

It’s clear the Flames have – at least at the time of this writing – downgraded their defence on the ice. Will the same be true one year from now? Three years from now? Does the dynamic in the dressing room change for the better? Time will tell.

Why Ferland and Fox?

Treliving also offered insight as to why the other two pieces were included in the deal, as well.

He said the Flames had “strong concerns,” emphasis on “strong,” about Fox’s signability, and it seems his inclusion in this deal is similar to Brandon Hickey’s in the Mike Smith deal a year ago. Hickey has since been moved again, to Buffalo. If Fox’s inclusion in this deal was the make or break, the Flames may have accepted that giving up extra value they would’ve had to trade anyways in order to get two pieces they coveted was preferred over shopping Fox some other time for an unknown return.

Not sure if I agree with that logic, but I can understand it. The Nashville Predators had a similar situation with another highly regarded third round pick that played in the NCAA, Jimmy Vesey. They chose to hold Vesey’s rights through all four years of college, and when informed he wouldn’t sign with them, scrambled to deal him. In the end, they got a measly third rounder for him. The Flames likely didn’t want to jeopardize what they felt was an important trade over a “what if.” Make of it what you will.

As for Ferland, Treliving made it clear he was a very difficult inclusion, and they really valued his character. However, Ferland is scheduled to be a UFA in 373 days, and scored 21 goals last year. Even though he scored 19 of those before the All-Star Break, and was a non-factor in the second half of the season, he will still be due a raise on his $1.75 million AAV. Lindholm is an unquestioned upgrade on Ferland, if only from a consistency standpoint.

Lindholm is also three years younger and boasts a significantly higher ceiling, especially if he plays beside Monahan and Gaudreau.

Conclusion

After the initial shock wore off, the reasons for this blockbuster from a Flames perspective have come into focus. That doesn’t mean they’re good reasons, but they are reasons.

It’s clear that shaking up the vibe in the locker room was a priority for Treliving, and by moving out someone who appeared to sometimes isolate himself in Dougie Hamilton, and someone who was very popular in Micheal Ferland, Treliving accomplished his goal.

Team control was also a significant factor, seeing as the Flames felt they were likely to lose Ferland to free agency in a year, and Fox to the same in two. Both Hanifin and Lindholm have team control for the foreseeable future, and assuming they don’t like museums, factor into the Flames’ perceived window of contention.

There will be tons more analysis about how the Flames come out of this trade heading into the summer, but the reasons for its consummation are clear now. The Flames seem to have downgraded their blueline, and possibly their roster as it stands, but as we saw last season, the roster wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on.

It’s all about how that roster translates to the ice, and we won’t know that for another three and a half months.


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  • Stu Gotz

    Word out this morning that Hamilton requested a trade 2 weeks ago. Good riddens as his apathy is not what a team needs. Ditto Fox….Ferland will be missed but as a Flames fan I am more than happy with Hannifan & Lindholm. Players that want to play for the Flames.

  • buts

    Hamilton is no the best player in the trade. In fact everyone in this trade is better than DH. Hartley and GG tried DH with every D partner and the only pairing that worked was with Gio. Freddie was a healthy scratch and kept here even tho Stockton had injuries and needed a Centerman 2 years ago. The lack of physicality a hockey smarts is so obvious yet everyone was blinded by his offence. This was a great trade, as if MF has concussion issues and doesn’t play physical he has little impact on a game. Fox tho talented is small and as a D you need that strength and size. We got 2 top first rounders in return and got rid of a don’t give a crap over rated D. This was BT’s best trade by a mile.

  • C Watson

    Now if Stone can somehow be packaged and parlayed into another top 6 scorer we might be on to something. Don’t forget to throw Brouwer in at the end to ensure the deal gets done.

  • Mickey O

    Treliving got rid of 3 headaches in a single deal, and got back what he needed.

    Dougie Hamilton: bad in the room, aloof, not a team player and all those other descriptions that have followed him around since his Boston days. If Hamilton did request a trade, it doesn’t matter if his dressing room issues are true or not. In other GM’s minds he’s damaged goods and BT was never going to get full value for him in any trade.

    Micheal Ferland: An under-rated player, that brings a ton of intangibles to the table. If he gets close to 40 points again in Carolina, someone is going to throw a massive contract his way in a year once he hits UFA. Treliving didn’t want to be that guy.

    Adam Fox: Maybe he didn’t want to sign in Canada at all. There was a lot of competition on defence with Calgary, then Treliving said there was serious concerns about signing him.

    Treliving was dealing from a position of extreme weakness. The players he got back aren’t exactly chopped liver. He did well to get out of a messy situation that could have dragged on for a long time.

  • Burnward

    Think of a hockey team as a sled tog team and a GM as a master musher.

    If you don’t have all dogs pulling in the same direction at all times you’re not winning no races.

    They can still be very good dogs but in the end it’s about how that dog runs with others.