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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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  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Eggs Bennett

    I find the Dougie personality rumours odd. I remember always seeing Dougie trolling his teammates during interviews after the game and thinking that they had a lot of fun together off the ice also.

  • 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.

  • buts

    Hamilton is not 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.

  • Thunder1

    I bet Lindholm out-scores Ferly by 10 goals and 20 points next year. Hanifin will get all-star consideration and Hammy will sulk. Fox won’t be in the show. Season one will show Flames won this trade and Carolina won’t be keeping two out of the three players they got for season two.

    • Mickey O

      At the end of next season…Carolina could be looking at a player in Ferland that wants to go to UFA and get paid big time. Adam Fox who says he doesn’t want to sign in Carolina, and a d-man who is indeed a problem in the dressing room. That isn’t exactly a good return on their end.

      • everton fc

        Think of the GM Treliving was dealing with here. His track record.

        I bet Fox won’t sign in Carolina, and Ferland signs w/Winnipeg. Maybe a place like Carolina, where Hamilton can be aloof and anonymous, will be a good fit for him, personally.

  • First Name Unidentified

    It’s a team sport. Individually Dougie may be the best player in this deal but the Flames are a better team because of this trade. Hanifin is being undervalued a lot on this site, but he is a stud. He’s better than Hamilton was at 21. Lindholm could be a consistent 50 points guy, solid two way right shot. We still need a high end scorer though to be able to make some noise in the post season. Rick Nash at a discount anyone?

  • thumz

    I think the other big motivator is cap and player management. Dougie has three years left then likely gets a raise north of $7m. Ferland one more year then gets a raise north of $3m. Fox sounded risky to signing at all. Hanifin and Lindholm are both RFA who can be bridged or signed longer term.

    • Sterls

      Agreed, there is a lot of good things about this trade from a long term cap consideration. It’s a bit of a gamble, but I think with these two players it is a good one. Sign both to 6+ years, give both 5 mil AAV (although I think Tre could do better than that). It might be an overpayment this year, but I bet it will be a huge deal for the team years 3-6 and could mean cap certainty for a while. Dougie will command 8+ (see OEL contract) when he becomes a free agent in 3 years, Hanifin will likely be Hamilton’s equal by then (not as offensive but more defensively sound) so that is a significant cap savings. Get them locked up now long term, it is worth the risk, and if it pans out it makes this trade a home run for Calgary.

      • Mickey O

        Treliving is going to have to pony up for Hanifin and he should take him to UFA status. Can’t see the Flames getting any change back from a $6M contract for 6 years.

        Lindholm supposedly wants $5M a year. He won’t get that from Treliving. His next contract figures to be a 3 or 4 year deal, and any NTC will factor into what the deal ultimately looks like.

        • BringtheFire 2.0

          I think Tre could pay him five. As long as it’s not mores than the criminally underpaid Johnny, the optics will be good.

          But I too believe he’s capable of haggling the man down.

  • 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.

  • Greg

    I think the Ferland as expensive-UFA-to-be is a misdirection. The truth is he rode an unsustainable SH % for less than a full season, and that made him seem temporarily comparable to Lindholm. I think the flames knew that and used it as an opportunity to flip a former 5th rounder for a former 5th overall. It’s a pretty solid buy low sell high move.

    • Greg

      I should add, I really like Ferland – his “unsustainable” SH% could actually be just his really good shot. Aside from that, his style of play and off ice story were both awesome. I’m also. It entirely sold on Lindholm having a high ceiling. He’s the same age as Monahan and clearly hasn’t tracked the same on counting numbers… a 40 point versatile forward might be all he’ll ever be.

      But I think this is playing the odds. It’s not a guaranteed upgrade on forward, but playing the odds isn’t a terrible strategy.

  • C Watson

    Johnny-Mony-Elias
    Sammy-Janko-Matty
    Mange-Backs-Frolik
    Lomberg-Shore-Dube
    Brouwer-Lazar

    Gio – TJ
    Noah – Hamonik
    Kulak – Phat Ras
    Stone

    Smith – Rittich

    On the block for another blockbuster – Stone
    Brouwer-Lazar-Sammy-Frolik

    • Sterls

      Elias will start on the top line, and I can see him being Hudler 2.0 for Jonny and Monny, something we have been missing for a while. If he doesn’t have chemistry there however, he will likely slot in nicely with Backs and Byng, bumping Frolik down the lineup (or making him expendable).

      • piscera.infada

        You’re saying Ovechkin just developed “character” this year? Or, was it just that the media narrative about his character was absolute garbage?

        I know which one it is.

        • BringtheFire 2.0

          Hang on, now, piscera. I heard during the playoffs that Trotz was talking about Ovie being ; “easier to work with” , and he attributed it to Ovie getting married. Now, I knew hard, demanding men who changed completely when they fell in love and everyone around them-family, people they work with-they all relaxed and just felt better and things were better, you know?

          So, maybe when a narrative is consistent for years and not dispelled by on ice performance there could be some credence to it?

          Ovie changed this year and they won.

  • The Beej

    I think at first everyone was really focused on what we gave up. And it does suck to lose those players and im sure it was hard to pull the trigger.

    But when I look at who is coming to town I cant help but be excited.

    Everyone seems to be undervaluing Hanifin in this trade. A few years ago he was a top 5 pick.

    What would you have to or 3 years ago have had to trade to land Hanifin? There is huge value here and the possibility that he develops into someone of equal value to DH in the next 2 years or so.

    Lindholm is a great two way player already at just 23 years old.

    These are very valuable young assets that we acquired.

    Im quite disappointed that all the focus here is on DH’s personality and on the dressing room and what we are getting back seems to be an after thought.

    I dont think the issues outlined in this article are as paramount to the trade as you make them out to be Christian.

    Here is my take on why DH:

    The Flames knew they would have to deal from a position of strength – the D.

    They shopped Brodie and prospects and were not getting any offers or returns that were worth it or that actually filled their needs. They decided that they would have to deal the big fish and hope their depth could compensate. Did the personality issues play into it. Maybe a little. Easier to say that than to bash DH’s dzone play and overall hockey sense.

    Then you factor in the ages of the players we are getting and the possibility that CAR can LOSE all 3 ASSETS for NOTHING in 3 years time. Do you think CAR was not aware if this and that is why they demanded such a return.

    On Ferland: acquiring Lindholm means Ferly gets bumped to the 3rd line…. but we need that spot for Foo and or Mangiapane. Seems logical to cash in on Ferly know if we risk losing him for nothing or weak pick at the deadline.

    I dont think this trade is as bad as many are making it out to be. Am I one of the Dougie lovers? Yes I am.

    But I am super excited with the former Canes coming our way.

  • Skylardog

    Based on stats, we got taken to the cleaners.

    My gut says waving good bye to Hamilton is a bonus. But we have not addressed the scoring issues and have gone backwards. Lindholm vs Ferland is a wash, Hanifin vs Hamilton is a step backwards from a scoring perspective. Fox was a freebee. Ferland Mony and Johnny, early in the season were the 6th ranked line in the NHL offensively (I just remember that from looking at the stats about 40 games in). Their play tanked when injuries, in particular to Mony but also Ferly became an issue. Ferland was always an afterthought under Gulutzan, despite being one of the best Flame PP guys. He was also his first scapegoat whenever anything didn’t go the right way. He will be great in Carolina.

    We gave up our first line RW for a 2nd line RW. We still need a top RW. No issues have been solved here including getting rid of a defenseman to create room for Andersson and or Valimaki. Sideways move at best.

    But I like the trade. Hamilton took a gazillion shots because he didn’t know what else to do with the puck. He had no vision and had very little chance to score on most of them. When he did start to score, his and Gio ‘s underlying numbers began to tank defensively. Beginning with a road trip game in Boston if memory serves me right, Hamilton potted about 6 goals in 4 or 5 games, and was the worst Flame in plus minus during that stretch. Please close the door as you leave Doug.

    If BT still goes out and gets a firstlline RW I can live with this. Addition by subtraction. But man I thought the 3 pieces we gave up were worth way more…

    • The Beej

      Lindholm vs ferland is not a wash.

      Ferland needs to play with GM on the top line to put up 20 goals (will he ever score 20 again?)

      Lindholm puts up over 40 points regardless of who he plays with and could put up 60 with GM next year.

      More skill way higher ceiling. A wash only if you look at counting stats.

      Look a little closer for context like age usage etc and a different picture is there for sure.

    • JoelOttosJock

      Just because bonehead GG played Ferland as the #1 rw doesnt mean he is a #1 rw. Is Brouwer a bonafide NHL PP specialist? Judging by his PP minutes under GG he is.

    • Skylardog

      Linholm is not a top end 1st line RW either. Are we looking for a mediocre first line or one of the best first lines in the NHL? We need a guy capable of posting 40 goals and 80 points, give or take a few. That is what is needed to contend. Lindholm is not that guy. He is a top 2nd liner.

      I don’t believe Ferland was a first liner either, but that was his slot last year. Lindhom will likely be slotted in there. That line will put up more points, but only because the line should be healthier. It is clear that Monahan was injured for a good part of the season, and Ferland for a long stretch as well. What would they have done if healthy for the whole year? I believe that is about the same as the line will post with Lindolm.

      I have been saying that Ferland needed to be traded because he had no clear role on the team. He gave us a good first line. It could be so much better.

      Lindolm on the first line is settling for mediocrity. But with Sam and Janko, he could give us one very good second line.

      • FL?MES

        So experiment with Lindholm on the top line to see. If it seems like the second line is a better fit for him would Tkachuk be worth a shot on the first line playing his off wing? Maybe we already have our top two RW?

      • The Beej

        Perhaps. I predict the top line will score more goals with Lindholm and will be more consistent offensively and more well rounded defensively.

        Lindholm may not be a bonafide top liner… yet. But we will get some better linemates than he has had.

    • Score When I like Nieuwendyk

      They were. The Rangers wanted Fox badly….we might have gotten Hayes who is rumoured to be expendable because his ceiling is now not later.

  • Jimmyhaggis

    Hamilton seemed disinterested to me, didn’t come through when needed, if all the rumors are true, then the dressing room would be disfunctional.
    Fernandez seemed to be out of sync most nights, lit it up first half of the season then was very inconsistent the second half.
    Fox wasn’t going to sign, so get what you can.
    Hannifan and Lindholm should bring consistency and fit in the dressing room, after all Peters knows them.
    Good trade.

  • Mickey O

    Peters has said that Hanifin can play both sides of the ice, and that he intends to play Brodie with Gio. It is refreshing to hear a coach that isn’t blindly committed to left-right pairings no matter what.

    Gulutzan would be preaching his beloved system at all times. He could be coaching a timbits team, or a seniors pick-up game at the Y. The new coaches fit a system to the players they have, not the other way around.

  • Thunder1

    Hanifin, who says he patterns his game after the Los Angeles Kings’ Drew Doughty, possesses the qualities that are going to allow him to be a two-way, defensive stud in the NHL. He’s big, he’s composed and positionally sound and he has the poise and hockey sense to move the puck effectively in transition.

    NHL draft report in 2015. Though his offensive upside might not match Dougie’s, he’s still got the exact same number of career points in his draft plus three season as Hamilton did.

    Watch one period of Hanifin playing hockey and you will agree he’s miles ahead of Dougie already at playing defence. Plus, he’s got history with Johnny and Chucky with the USA development program. Johnny and Chucky did not get along with Hamilton. That was easy to see.

    It’s no wonder why he figures to be one of the top players selected in Florida on June 26.

    “There’s not much not to like about Noah Hanifin,” MacDonald said. “He should play in the NHL for a long, long time.”

  • Day1-Cfan

    Well Tre did what he thought he needed to do(with Peters input, not Burkes this time). Was hoping to get that #1 RHS winger in exchange for Dham. But that did not happen and we throw in a couple more 1/2 decent players to top it off. Like we are dealing with 2 for 1 pizzas. Now that the draft is over let’s see what Tre and Peters come up with on July 1 free agency.