By Evan Presement
Where there’s smoke, there’s (usually) fire – especially when it comes to NHL trade rumours. The latest name to be making the rounds? Calgary Flames d-man Dougie Hamilton.
“That rumor has been fairly consistent. It really has,” said Dreger, as part of a larger overall conversation on the Flames’ early season struggles. “I can think back to the draft in Buffalo, where Dougie Hamilton’s name had surfaced at that point. In checking with Brad Treliving, the general manager of the Calgary Flames, he brushed it off and said there was nothing to it. The agent, J.P. Barry, brushed it off and dismissed it. Said there was nothing to it.
“He’s one of those guys, right or wrong, that always seems to have that lure about him or carry the possibility that a trade could be in the future again. Maybe it’s because he was traded so young by the Boston Bruins to the Calgary Flames and then signed a mammoth contract that, well, if a player like that was expendable in the eyes of Don Sweeney and the Boston Bruins, maybe there’s something to this. But all I know is what those inside that Calgary organization keep telling me.
“And there’s a premium market right now for defense. That seems to be the case on an annual basis. So if Calgary gets to a stage where they want to make that move, I don’t think it’s going to be a huge issue finding Hamilton another address.”
Obviously, Dreger’s not saying here that Calgary’s looking to trade Hamilton. Rather, he’s noting that it’s been done before, and if the Flames do decide to trade the young blueliner, there won’t be any shortage of interest.
Of course, Calgary’s Brian Burke has been making the rounds over the past few days, indicating that they’re “not moving (Hamilton),” and that any teams who are going to inquire on the 6’6 d-man should “just save the quarter. Don’t go to the payphone.”
It is, however, important to note that teams will very rarely admit to shopping a player, especially one they recently acquired and signed to a six-year, $34.5 million deal. Take Marc Bergevin and the Montreal Canadiens, for example. Just before the infamous P.K Subban trade, days before the 2016 entry draft, Bergevin famously noted that:
“I never shopped PK. I never have, I’m not now. But I can’t stop teams from calling.”
We all know how that turned out.
Anyways, the point of this exercise isn’t to figure out if Hamilton is, in fact, available, but to determine if the Leafs should trade for him.
**All stats courtesy of corsica.hockey and naturalstattrick.com and are 5v5, 300+ minutes**
Dougie Hamilton is a rare breed.
He’s 6’6, skates like a deer (it’s a compliment), is offensively gifted, and is only 23-years-old. The Boston Bruins have a penchant for pissing away elite talent, but the fact that Hamilton’s already been traded once in his career is absolutely insane.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty, here’s a look at Hamilton’s basic statistics over his the past few seasons.
He’s recorded two straight 40+ point seasons and is on pace to hit that mark again despite averaging his lowest time on ice since his sophomore year. In a league where scoring is becoming more and more difficult to find (and on a team that doesn’t have too many scorers), that’s fairly impressive.
Delving into the #fancystats, it’s clear that Hamilton is fairly elite offensively.
At even strength, there are only two defensemen who have a better CF60 (shots directed towards the net, per 60 minutes) than Hamilton – Jake Gardiner and Jake Muzzin. That probably contributes to the fact that he has the fourth highest CFrel% (relative to team corsi for) of all NHL defenders at 5.22. In terms of raw CF%, the numbers still reflect favourably on Hamilton, as he ranks in the top-15, at 53.75%. Hamilton is in the top tier of possession-driving d-men.
In terms of expected goals, Hamilton ranks tied for 10th best in xGF60 (expected goals for per 60 minutes) with Andrei Markov. He also has an xGf% (expected goals for percentage) of 51.5, which suggests he’s a net positive and puts him in the same range as players like Drew Doughty, Shea Weber, Roman Josi, and Mark Giordano.
Looking at scoring chances, Hamilton has a top-30 SCF60 (scoring chances for, per 60), with 9.94. To put that number into context, that’s better than P.K Subban (9.82) and Shea Weber (9.7). Sure, Hamilton’s SCF% (scoring chances for percentage) may be just under 50% (49.17), but Calgary is one of the worst scoring chance differential teams in the NHL, and Hamilton’s rank in the top-25 SCFrel% (scoring chances for percentage, relative to team) d-men in the league suggests that he’s not the problem.
All in all, Hamilton is a wonderful offensive player, one the the Flames should be extremely happy to have locked up for years to come.
On the other side of the puck is where most of Hamilton’s weaknesses come into play. The important thing to remember as I go through these numbers, though, is that we’ve already established that Hamilton is a net positive in terms of scoring chances, possession, and expected goals.
Dougie Hamilton allows the 46th most shot attempts against per 60 minutes while he’s on the ice, at 56.08. Also, out of all Calgary defenders, Hamilton’s the second worst d-man at limiting shots against, with a CA60Rel% of 2.69, which also puts him in the bottom-35 in the NHL.
Looking at expected goals against, Hamilton ranks 27th worst in the NHL, and 12th worst in expected goals against per 60 minutes. When you look at how Hamilton performs compared to his team, there’s more of the same. His relative expected goals against per 60 is 0.53, good for 15th worst in the NHL, and second worst on the Flames.
Hamilton’s one saving grace is that he’s not being sheltered defensively. I’m not saying he needs to be – he’s in his fifth professional season and doesn’t need to be hidden, but still. He has a relative zone start ratio of 0.10, essentially meaning he’s getting the exact same treatment as his teammates. His raw zone start ratio is 47.15, and his offensive zone start ratio is just under 30%.
Also, Hamilton’s getting destroyed by a terrible PDO of 96.17. He’s getting an on-ice even-strength SV% of just 89.94%, which is probably, to those watching, makes things look worse than they actually are. His expected fenwick save percentage this season is 93.53%, so for now, we can assume that his on-ice goals against numbers will improve. Hamilton’s expected PDO of 99.57 is very normal and sustainable, and there should be a point this season where these numbers start to turn.
Should the Leafs trade for him?
Yes, but also no. Let me explain.
First off, I think that Hamilton would be a fantastic fit in Toronto’s system. He’s offensively gifted, very fast, can move the puck, a good possession-driver… He’s really everything that this Toronto team embodies. The issue, though, is that Toronto has two extremely similar top-4 d-men in Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner.
Both Rielly and Gardiner are offensively gifted players, and while Gardiner doesn’t get enough credit for his defensive play, he’s not a quote on quote ‘shutdown defender’. Hamilton reminds me a lot of both these players and while it’s never a bad thing to have too many offensively gifted d-men, I don’t think it’s where Toronto should be focusing unless Hamilton can be had for cheap, which is very unlikely.
Rather, I’d want Toronto looking at two players in particular: Kevin Shattenkirk and Josh Manson.
Shattenkirk and Manson are both, what I would consider to be, the modern day ‘shutdown d-man’. Are they both good offensive players? Yes, especially in Shattenkirk’s case. However, they’re both elite at suppressing shots and goals against, and they’re the types of players that would fit just as nicely into Toronto’s system.
Shattenkirk is a UFA this summer, and perhaps Toronto makes a play for him in free agency. They could also try to trade for him, although it’s going to be tough to get St. Louis to part with, arguably, their best d-man mid-season.
Manson, meanwhile, is young (only 25-years-old), and when looking at Anaheim’s expansion draft situation, may be the odd man out. Anaheim may be looking to get something for him in return rather than losing him for nothing to Vegas. This is where Toronto should be able to swoop in and steal him away.
Toronto isn’t in ‘win-now’ mode. Sure, it would be nice if they made the playoffs this season, but if they don’t, no one will be upset. Because of that, they can afford to wait to make these moves, which is always a good thing in terms of not seeming desperate.
All in all, Hamilton would be a fantastic get for the Leafs, I just don’t think that he’s the type of player Toronto should be using their assets to acquire right now. Let’s see how this plays out.