Many factors to consider in a Dougie Hamilton blockbuster

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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski/USA TODAY SPORTS

If you’re a believer that even the most objective, soulless attempts at building something special will come with familiar feeling narratives and storylines, you have to know what’s coming. There’s obviously no tangible guarantee, but even in regards to an organization of newfound silence, everything about the speculation connects the Leafs to Dougie Hamilton makes sense.

Where The Narrative Lies

For the past twenty-five years, it seems like the “big stride” that pushes a new era of the Maple Leafs from the start of a rebuild to a gradual climb up the standings has always been a blockbuster trade with the Calgary Flames. It worked for the team in the early 1990’s when they acquired Doug Gilmour, beginning a little over a decade where the team was, save for a brief hiccup, one of the most perennially respectable in the league. 

It worked in 2009/10 when the Leafs shook the hockey world on a Sunday morning and acquired Dion Phaneuf. While that attempt didn’t find the same degree of success due to a lack of otherwise forward-thinking, it still made the Leafs more capable of winning games for half a decade and gave the team a poster boy. Now, with the team in need of another big-minute defenceman, there’s talk that they’re looking back to Alberta again.

Not just any big-minute defenceman though. They’re looking at Dougie Hamilton, a player who never suited up for the Leafs but was picked with a Leafs draft pick, sent to Boston in the Phil Kessel trade. Getting the “big three” of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander has masked the frustrations of missing out on Tyler Seguin, but to straight up bring in the missing defensive link would act as closure for a fanbase that is now accustomed to more responsible draft pick management.

But besides that, Hamilton can play hockey in a way that the team would likely value.

What They’d Be Getting

Year Team Age GP G A PTS PIM 5v5 P60 CF%Rel ATOI
2012/13 Boston Bruins 19 42 5 11 16 14 1.12 2.41 17:08
2013/14 Boston Bruins 20 64 7 18 25 40 1.03 3.71 19:06
2014/15 Boston Bruins 21 72 10 32 42 41 1.11 4.78 21:20
2015/16 Calgary Flames 22 82 12 31 43 46 1.02 1.38 19:46
2016/17 Calgary Flames 23 24 2 10 12 22 1.58 5.4 19:12

Let’s get something out of the way; Dougie Hamilton isn’t the prototypical “shutdown” defenceman that so many are looking for the Leafs to acquire. But that’s perfectly fine, given the playstyle of the team. In fact, it may even play to his benefit; given the top-end speed and creativity of this team, they’re more prone to needing somebody who can keep up with them while transitioning the puck to the offensive zone, is able to get back in the event that something goes wrong, and still has that physical presence that scares other teams because, you know, sandpaper and all that.

Qualitatively, Hamilton is all that. He’s pushing 6’6, he loves to throw the body, and he’s not scared to get in the way of traffic. He’s an incredibly impressive skater for his size, and he isn’t afraid to use his shot when needed. By the way, that shot is right-handed; the side where many feel the Leafs are struggling harder.

The numbers tell an equally bright story. Of defencemen who have played at least 2000 even-strength minutes since he made his NHL debut in 2012/13 (Hamilton has 4407), the 23-year-old ranks eighth in rate point production (1.10 points per hour) and 19th in team-relative shot attempt percentages. The latter is particularly impressive, given that he put up those performances with a steady defensive team in Boston and in a Calgary group with top tier players like Mark Giordano and TJ Brodie.

Player Pos TOI Together GF60 GA60 GF% CF60 CA60 CF% OZ%
CHARA, ZDENO D 1593:00 0.43 0.06 3.5 -2.49 3.23 -2.6 -4.7
SEIDENBERG, DENNIS D 765:26 -0.18 0.05 -2.5 -2.89 4.61 -3.4 0.4
RUSSELL, KRIS D 553:18 0.46 -0.18 7.2 2.23 -5.98 3.6 6.6
GIORDANO, MARK D 223:52 -0.2 -0.63 4.1 -7.85 -7.23 -0.1 0.7
ENGELLAND, DERYK D 177:05 0.02 -0.06 0.8 -17.29 -9.32 -3.7 -3.5
BRODIE, TJ D 152:34 0.71 -0.93 17.4 -3.35 2.6 -2.8 -13
BARTKOWSKI, MATT D 135:40 -1.95 0.1 -17.5 -6.88 7.31 -6.6 1
KRUG, TOREY D 117:02 -0.58 0.35 -9.7 -9.17 -2.86 -2.3 8
FERENCE, ANDREW D 82:19 -0.76 0.19 -9.5 -16.09 13.06 -13 -12.8
WIDEMAN, DENNIS D 78:25 0.06 0.95 -11.2 -18.48 1.61 -8 -1.3
JOKIPAKKA, JYRKI D 72:22 -0.8 -0.88 0.8 10.4 2.75 3.9 13.2
MORROW, JOE D 71:26 -0.32 1.65 -28.1 -3.72 11.36 -7.3 -7.8
SMID, LADISLAV D 33:54 2.02 0.75 44.5 -25.39 6.39 -13.6 9.9
MESZAROS, ANDREJ D 23:32 -0.04 2.4 -48.8 25.38 19.41 5.8 22.8

He also, by and large, has made players around him better. The above table represents every defenceman he has played with on Boston and Calgary for more than 20 minutes, and whether or not their metrics go up or down when they played without him on the ice with them. 

By and large, players generated more offence when played with him, and while it was a coin toss to whether they’d give up more shots or not, the net result was, save for three players who had coincidentally started more of their shifts in the offensive zone, in favour of his teammates driving play better while playing with him; even names like Giordano, Brodie, and Zdeno Chara fall under this scope.

All things considered, he has the physical traits to fit into the dynamic of the run-and-gun-and-fun Leafs roster, and the underlying numbers to suggest he can add even more offence while at least being stable defensively.

Where There’s Smoke

Of course, a player being good means nothing if there isn’t any reason to suggest that a move will happen. But that isn’t the case. There’s actually a lot to work with here.

  • On November 12th, Nick Kypreos mentioned on Hockey Night in Canada’s “Headlines” that Hamilton had been inquired about by a few teams. Calgary wasn’t particularly shopping him, but his name was on some shortlists. “I don’t suggest for one second that Calgary is shopping this guy, but there are some teams inquiring,” said the insider. “We know so many teams need help on the blue line. The two teams that I’m hearing that are kicking tires on Dougie Hamilton are Arizona and Pittsburgh.
  • On November 21st, Leafs Assistant GM Kyle Dubas and a team scout attended Flames/Sabres in Buffalo, one of two teams to have multiple hockey operations types listed as attending (Montreal being the other). 
  • On November 23rd, TSN insider Darren Dreger suggested that the Leafs were on the market for a shutdown defenceman. “The Toronto Maple Leafs are trying to get some business done,” said Dreger on “Insider Trading”. “The Leafs, and this will come as no surprise to any Toronto Maple Leafs fan, they have Peter Holland on the trade market. He’s been in and out of the Leafs lineup. Lou Lamoriello is also looking for a shutdown defenceman. There’s a lot of teams on the market for a d-man, but anyone who’s watched the Maple Leafs play knows that they need some help there.”
  • On November 26th, Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving attended Capitals/Leafs at the Air Canada Centre; the only executive of note from a non-playing team.
  • On November 27th, Toronto Maple Leafs director of Pro Scouting Dave Morrison attended Flames/Flyers in Philadelphia.
  • On November 28th, TSN insider Bob McKenzie mentioned that the Flames are listening to offers on Hamilton, and that the Leafs were likely involved in the conversation. “I’m sure they probably are,” said McKenzie on TSN 1050 (via Chris Nichols) “I mean, listen – they want to improve their defense. If Hamilton is available – and we don’t really know if he is or isn’t. Calgary is definitely listening on Dougie Hamilton. That’s not the same as wanting to trade him. Montreal was listening on P.K. Subban too, as they told us on multiple occasions. So I don’t have any evidence to suggest anything is imminent. Would the Leafs like to bolster their blueline? I’m sure they would. That’s the next logical step in the progression for this hockey team.”

So that’s where things are right now. The Leafs have scouted the Flames a few times, the Flames have scouted the Leafs at least once, Hamilton isn’t untouchable, and for the first time in a while, the Lou suppression machine has broken down a little and people are gossiping about what’s going on in Leafs land.

What Could Be Up For Grabs

I’m not going to get into what I think would be a fair package for Dougie Hamilton. I’m not good at playing HFBoards, HFBoards isn’t good at playing reality, and trades these days are so all over the place that it’s not worth trying to figure out “fair value”. Not to mention, again, we’re talking about a blockbuster with the Flames; historically, this has ended with the Leafs throwing a bunch of spare parts into Calgary’s hands.

I will note one thing, though, and that’s the fact that while Treliving is in charge in Cowtown, Brian Burke is still present as President of Hockey Operations. Burke is probably a part of the war room discussions, and he has a history of loyalty, and believing in his own models. So, let’s think of this a little differently. Here’s who the Leafs have in the organization that are tied to Brian Burke.

  • Players brought in through free agency or trade by Burke: James van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak, Jake Gardiner
  • Players drafted by Burke: Morgan Rielly, Dominic Toninato, Connor Brown, Garret Sparks, Viktor Loov, Josh Leivo, Nazem Kadri.

If you really want to stretch it, the Ducks drafted Peter Holland just a few months after Burke left for Toronto; given the nature of his departure, it’s unlikely that they went through immediate philosophical changes and with that in mind, it’s possible that he was part of the group that initially looked at Holland for Anaheims 2009 draft list. That’s a huge reach though, especially seven years later. Similar reaches can be made for the 2013 draft class (of which Frederik Gauthier, Fabrice Herzog, Antoine Bibeau, and Andreas Johnson remain), but again, I wouldn’t stretch it too much.

Van Riemsdyk has been the logical conclusion response from a lot of people, but it remains to be seen if Toronto wants to trade their Toronto left winger. Maybe something is there with Bozak, given that every Calgary centre is on pace for 41 points or fewer. There are a ton of forward prospects that the Leafs can dangle in front of Treliving and company if a quantity for quality trade were to be made. I don’t have a direct answer, but there’s a lot to play with in the pool and a lot of names that might be familiar to a certain Flames executive. 

Toronto will likely have to send back some salary in this trade, unless they plan on activating their LTIR magic: Hamilton is in the second year of a six-year contract worth $5.75 million per season.

The One Risk

While Toronto would love to have a legitimate, brand name defenceman to round out the present Top-3 of Morgan Rielly, Nikita Zaitsev, and Jake Gardiner, the upcoming expansion draft makes an acquisition a lot trickier.

While it’s becoming increasingly easier to risk exposure of Martin Marincin (who will almost definitely be their exposed 70/40 player) and Frank Corrado (who might never play again at this rate), leaving Connor Carrick out in the open is a recipe for loss. I waxed poetic about the 22-year-old before the season started, and he’s exceeded even those words of late, combining with Gardiner to the team’s most consistent, if sheltered, defensive pair from a statistical perspective. Combine that with the fact that Las Vegas GM George McPhee was the one to draft him in Washington, and that makes him prime to be plucked. Sure, you’re losing your #3 right defenceman if he gets taken after acquiring Hamilton, but that’s a heck of a #6 to have if you can keep him.

There are, of course, some ways around that. The Leafs could offer up a less vital prospect or a pick to Vegas in exchange for taking Marincin instead. Or, they could go with eight skaters instead of 7 forwards, three defencemen, and a goalie, and cap their forward protections at Kadri, JVR, Brown, and Leipsic (so long as they aren’t moved in the deal). Or, they could look to a find another, more exempt Carrick-like player; perhaps even using him in the trade package for Hamilton.

Whatever the case, while I don’t think Connor Carrick should stop the team from acquiring Dougie Hamilton, he’s someone who needs to be considered in the process.

Conclusions

This is a goldmine of a rumour. The Leafs’ management and coaching staff have made it clear with their quotes comparing the team to the 2009 Blackhawks, getting six points every five games, and general optimism about heading to the playoffs that this isn’t going to be another lost year. With that in mind, the forwards needing little help, and the goaltending starting to stabilize, the big move has to come on defence.

Now, there’s a big, narrative-attached name coming from a narrative-attached city with a big frame, a ton of skill, good numbers, and a rebuild-friendly age. It’s well known that both teams have their eyes on each other, there’s some prior history involved and two sides that could use a shakeup in certain areas.

Who knows if this ends in Dougie Hamilton wearing the colours of the team that originally owned his draft pick, or what it would cost to make it happen. Maybe the fact we’re talking about it so much has ruined the whole thing.

But boy, are there ever a lot of layers to the conversation, and it’s a fun one to think about.

  • LukeDaDrifter

    A couple of commenters earlier alluded to, ” Why in the world would Calgary consider trading him”
    He is young, has size and speed and physical presence, He has good offensive stats. He is the kind of player most teams would be thinking about building their future team around. Calgary has three thirty something D-men nearing the end of their careers.

    Character is something a really hate to speculate on when I have never met someone. There were certainly rumours in Boston that he was not popular in the dressing room. What exactly that means I am not really sure. Very few people came forward to say those rumours were not true, some did though. I do know Boston has a reputation of putting a high value on character. They are quick to trade someone who they feel lacks it. I do know Boston, like the Leafs are looking for a top four defenceman. There have been no rumours around getting into scuffles at bars as young guys often do. No stories like Kane of the Hawks revolving around sexual assault accusations. No impaired driving stories. No getting caught at the border with “hillbilly heroin” . No crashing into the drive-through at Tim Horton’s at two in the morning. One thing the NHL and teams keep a tight lid on is hard drug use.

    Like I said at the start it is grossly unfair for me to judge his character when I have no idea at all.,so I am not. I am only stating the tiny bit of gossip I have heard.

    Still trading Hamilton twice at such a young age doesn’t make sense. Boston claims they couldn’t afford him. Calgary seems to be saying the same thing. Less than $6 million for a top pairing defenceman is not out of line.

    • Albertan Leaf Fan!

      First off, last year when the leafs cane to to town, I rember listening to local raidio guys discussing the reason for why three of the flames best young players were getting scratched that night as I drove the the game. Rumors abounded. Now Dougie was not member of the three, and I don’t believe anybody everacuused anybody of drug use, but I have herd rumors that flames and be quite the partiers. I can’t say I think Dougie has any character problems. Actually I have herd very little about any problems regarding him, but your thoughts do make me wonder. I still believe that the leafs and flames should definitely make a trade, though I never really thought Dougie would be involved. Interested to see how this turns out, hopefully both teams benefit in the long run. That and the leafs would need to send a D man back for me to be happy with the deal.

        • Albertan Leaf Fan!

          Uh considering he has probably been our biggest bright spot of the year, really poorly to say the least. Actually I highly suggest heading over to flames nation, they have great stuff their, though be nice on the comments! Also I think it would be awsome if flames nation and leafs nation writers could get together for a sort of roundtable discussion on a deal between the two teams. I think it would be really informative for both nations.

          • DukesRocks

            I do go over quite a bit, its fun reading another fan base perspective. You’re right Tkachuk is a fan pleaser. He was my favorate player in the draft.

          • Albertan Leaf Fan!

            Ya my drive to school would certainly be interesting listening to the local radio guys bemoan the loss of thier beloved Tkachuk. though, I have always thought that one day Nylander (son of a famous flame) would be a flame, and Samuel Bennett, the Next Doug Gilmore would be leaf, I just thought that it would be a long ways in the future…..

        • HockeyKeeperKit

          I can’t see either team giving up on the two young guys so soon. I agree with Jeff that the Flames probably want help at centre. I think this will be one of those situations that have been rumoured when the Leafs use their prospect strength to swing a deal.

          • DukesRocks

            I wouldn’t say giving up, more a lateral move for need. Nylander is a centre and the Flames are in need of offense. But I get your point. Just spit balling is all.

          • HockeyKeeperKit

            Ya, I just can’t see Calgary fans going for that in his rookie season. As a Nylander fan myself, I’d be pretty upset so I could understand the same sentiment in Calgary.

          • LukeDaDrifter

            Seriously a trade for Hamilton would be a blockbuster for sure. No need to cloud the issue by involving Tkachuk.

            American thanksgiving is a traditional time GM’s assess their chances of making playoffs becoming a contender or simply checking the job section in the want-adds. Trades used to happen at this time. Last year it looked like there would be as well, but the GM’s decided to hang tough and see if their teams could turn it around. Tampa, Pittsburgh,LA and the Ducks come to mind. Those GM’s were correct. Their teams did turn it around and waited for the trade deadline to make some adjustments. Is there any real reason to think this year will not be more of the same? Is the media simply driving this to create some story lines like last year? Are these scouts showing up at games simply kicking tires? Is everyone looking to pick up a good player but unwilling to pay the price yet? And last but not least, where the hell is CMPuck? I miss his doom and gloom comments on the rebuild.

          • DukesRocks

            Yeah you’re right about Tkachuk, just spit balling possible trade scenarios. When your favorite Leaf of all time is Wendel Clark, is it any wonder I have a thing for tough power forwards. God knows the Leafs need a few of those.

            Yeah it’s common place to have regional scouts at all games but Ryan Fancey mentioned some big honchos attended Leafs and Flames games. This adds to there being smoke. The degree and players of interest is unknown but coincidentally Nylander didn’t play the Cap’s game. This got me thinking if I was giving up Nylander, who would I want. Hence Tkachuk.

            Is Calgary desperate to get some offense with Johnny hockey going down. If a team like Calgary waits to long (trade deadline) their window could close.

            On a separate note, I agree with your assessment that we could probably get that top 4D for cheaper if we wait (expansion draft trade). No need to push it.

          • LukeDaDrifter

            LukeWarmWater ( who lives so far back in the BC bush, he has to come out to go hunting ), says: “the Leafs are playing the most exciting hockey we have seen here in years.” ….So what’s the rush to break them up?

            You always get the best deal when people come knocking on your door looking to trade. Why not wait for them to come to us..

    • LukeWarmWater

      Brother Luke as usual I tend to agree with you. It was like that time my brother talked me into buying a Hyundai Stellar. I should have kicked the tires which would have fallen off. Now as you point out know one is questioning Hamilton’s talent but I too question a guy being traded twice so quickly.

      Over the years I’ve known of hockey trades simply made to get a guy out of town. One story which I know is absolutely true involved an N.H.L. player who got caught with enough steroids to feed an elephant. The hockey team moved him out pronto. A fellow countrymen and teammate of this player gained 25 lbs. that season. You do the simple math.

      • LukeDaDrifter

        I did the math….I don’t know much about steroids. I do know a lot about beer. So 25 lbs comes to 37. 4 pints of Guinness, everyday for 6 months and 3 days. Now if you throw in a large french fries every day, you could cut the time down considerably.

  • Thomas John

    Does Hamilton become our number one defenseman if he gets here? If so maybe a
    Gardiner- Hamilton is in order for next year with them acting as our top pair. Reilly- Zaitsev as the obvious choice for second pairing and then with Carrick being the 5th and the potential for the 6th to be Neilsen, and maybe somebody like a Trevor Daley being available in free agency next year. If the Hamilton deal is done is our back end as bad as we think it is or does it just need time to develop?

        • LukeDaDrifter

          Obviously you have led a very sheltered life if you haven’t heard of Gates “The Hammer” Lepine. He won he first ever Northern Ontario Drinking Championship. It was held at the Maple Leaf Hotel in Timmins Ontario. Shots only. One every three minutes. He told me when he found himself literally the last man standing, just to showoff he ordered a double for the road. Drank that and ordered a taxi home where his wife immediately sent him to the hospital. He can’t recall what happened to the trophy. Either he left it in the taxi or possibly his wife may have destroyed it, without knowing the true value of such a historic idem. He told me he was definitely “Hammered”.

  • Tigon

    I would be open to a JVR for Hamilton.

    Prior to reading I thought maybe a trade built around Nylander – Hamilton. Nylander could be a centre on the second line bumping down Bennett to 3rd or RW flank to (1) Gaudreau/Monahan or (2) Tkachuk/Bennett – like how Toronto is currently spreading their scoring. Media keeps mentioning Nylander would be the odd man out of the Marner, Matthews, Nylander trio if it came to that. Wingers are our trade currency strength.

    I’m sure it would have more pieces like probably Corrado to fill the void now created and maybe a Leivo/Holland as pieces on the Toronto side. Greening, Laich or Michalek could be the pieces to make salary work and please the MLSE owners that don’t like that money in the minors. Bibeau or Sparks are also pieces if Calgary wants to add some depth they lack in goal.

    Keeping away from the that trio and JVR. Bozak/Carrick would probably be package option 3.

    Outside a JVR for Hamilton trade, this could be like both Phaneuf trades where we see 3-5 pieces per side.

    • Ralph L

      Oh yeah? Did you just spew whatever shit came out of your brain into typing? Did you once consider what the other team would actually want?

      No?

      Fucking naive loser. Hamilton isn’t leaving CGY for anything less than an Elite RW, and a D prospect. No shit either. Sparks and Bibeau are shit, fuck you for suggesting those plugs.

      Why would Treliving trade Hamilton when he has been great, just to trade him for shit when he already has 3 LWs in the top 9, and only 3 top 4 D already. Do some research

      • Tigon

        No, but I can see you spew shit from your mouth. Looks like the ass to mouth fans are making themselves known.

        It’s called speculation and a response to the article. I’ve made more than one if readint is your thing. I see you’ve brought plenty of value or suggestion in all your comments…

      • Ron K

        Ralphie, Ralphie, Ralphie………..I wonder what true Flames think of your tirades Ralphie. Shame, shame, shame on you Ralphie. Hamilton for a bag of pucks…….
        I think Burkie will go for that…..wouldn’t you Ralphie?

  • Capt.jay

    At first I wasn’t on board with a JVR for Hamilton, but now the more I think of it I’m warming to it. By the time we are contenders I feel JVR’s best years would be behind him while Hamilton is younger and would be more in his prime. Losing JVR would sting but we have a lot in the cupboard in the way of forwards and forward prospects. As it stands now we have maybe Dermott and Neilson coming up the pipe.

    The is would be your core. Matthews, Marner, Nylander Kadri, Reilly Gardiner, and Hamilton. Not bad at all. Throw in other pieces like Brown, Hyman, Kappenen, Soshnikov, Reichel, Leivo, Lypsic, Carrick, zeitev, Dermott and Neilson and suddenly things start coming together.

    GO LEAFS!!!!!

    • LukeDaDrifter

      That seems to be the logic behind any trade involving JVR. Make no mistake though, JVR would be sorely missed. We have no one who could immediately step into his skakes.

      • Capt.jay

        He’d be missed for sure but I look at it this way. Are we better with Hamilton or JVR in 3 or 4 years when we are truly ready to compete for the cup. Also, I feel it’s easier to SOMEWHAT replace JVR than it would Hamilton as we have young forwards who could score 20 plus goals who aren’t named Matthews, Marner, Nylander. Whereas we don’t have anyone close to Hamilton in our system right now. This years draft is full of forwards again with only a handful of D man if you can get one.

        I also feel that when the time comes, signing a RFA forward will be easier than a defenseman.

        But again, I’ve agreed with you all day that it would be hard to give a guy like JVR up. Someone also said that when this contract is up he’ll be looking at 7-8 million which we may not be able to afford.

    • Ron K

      What’s the problem Ralph……..afraid your shit for brains president is going to screw up your team? We’ve been there with him. lol We’ll let you have Holland and a bag of pucks for Hamilton.

  • Wes

    If nothing is imminent and there aren’t any rumours with other teams, shouldn’t this be a move that is looked at in the offseason (maybe lay the groundwork now). Cap space wont be an issue in the offseason, won’t have to worry about the expansion draft, and dont have to worry about dougie’s initial struggles without a training camp playing in babcocks system. It is not like the leafs are really making a push to make the playoffs THIS year.