Fans are getting antsy if their teams isn’t in the final four of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The slightest bit of available player news sets off a ream of speculation - and the news yesterday that the Carolina Hurricanes are allowing Dougie Hamilton to talk to other teams is exactly that kind of news.
Hamilton is a threat of an offensive defenseman. Last season, he scored 10 goals and 32 assists in 55 games, ten points more than the Blues’ top scoring defenseman, Torey Krug. Hamilton’s an UFA this off-season, so the discussions allowed by the Hurricanes are potentially more of a shopping trip for him that necessarily a trade pending for the club. Will he get a good deal from Carolina? Will he get a better deal elsewhere from a team that appeals to him more? Will there be a sign and trade? Who’s to say?
The Hurricanes, who were eliminated last round by the Tampa Bay Lightning, are a very good team and he is on a very good pairing with Jaccob Slavin. Hamilton will have to take into consideration if a payday is important, or if he wants to stay with (or move toward a similar team) a team of the Hurricanes’ caliber.
“Anyone’s guess” means, among fans, “here’s why he will sign with our team.” Speculation with Hamilton makes sense - a team would be nuts to not at least kick the tires on a player like him if the opportunity arises. The Blues will do their due diligence on him, but don’t expect to see him land in St. Louis.
There’s a need for an upgrade on defense for the Blues, but Hamilton doesn’t fit on his traditional right-side positioning. The Blues’ right D - Colton Parayko, Justin Faulk, Robert Bortuzzo, and eventually Scott Perunovich is set. Obviously, you would prefer to have Hamilton to Bortuzzo, but Dougie Hamilton isn’t playing on the third pairing. Parayko isn’t playing on the third pairing. Faulk isn’t playing on the third pairing.
The Blues’ need is on the left side, where Vince Dunn - a highly tradable asset and a player who still does have upside for the Blues - is the current weakest link.
The Blues need to get bigger on defense, and Hamilton, who is 6’6” and 229 lbs, provides that. They could stand to use that size on someone who can clear the way in front of Jordan Binnington if necessary, or effectively knock defensemen off of the puck. Hamilton, while an offensive threat, isn’t physical to the degree that the Blues could benefit from.
Obviously that’s not to say that the Blues need to only value physical defensemen, or only defensemen on the right handed side. If Hamilton is someone that they can effectively pursue, go for it. Fitting him into the lineup may be a bit of a challenge, and if the Blues participate in a sign-and-trade with Carolina, they potentially could have to ship a defenseman who is probably not named Vince Dunn back the other way as part of a package.
All of that is probably a moot point if you take the salary cap into consideration. While trying to manage which UFAs to re-sign, Armstrong would also have to figure out a way to get Hamilton to fit onto the payroll. Hamilton’s finishing up a six year deal with an AAV of $5,750,000 a season. He’s going to get a very large raise.
The Blues have a good chunk of change tied up in their top six defensemen right now - if you include Dunn’s current deal, it’s $25.025 million. Without some careful maneuvering and the loss of some big salaries, or some key players, Hamilton’s not winding up in St. Louis.