Dougie Hamilton and the Maple Leafs

Dougie Hamilton's days might be done in Calgary. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images

Dougie Hamilton’s days might be done in Calgary. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)

By Joe Golding



Reports from the mainstream media have talked about the Calgary Flames taking calls on defenseman Dougie Hamilton. The 9th overall pick of the 2011 NHL Draft has called Alberta his home since he was traded from the Boston Bruins at the 2015 NHL Draft to the Flames for picks. The rumor picked up a lot of steam when it was reported that Flames general manager, Brad Treveling, was scouting a Maple Leafs game this past week.

However, Flames President, Brian Burke, debunked any rumors by hypothetically (I think) saying he would want 20 first rounders for the defenseman. We should take comments like that with a grain of salt, especially after this summer when Montreal said they would not trade PK Subban, and eventually did.

Hamilton was drafted with the pick that was originally Toronto’s, and the Buds could use a right-handed defenseman, so what would it take for the Leafs to get Hamilton?

First off, this piece is relevant for every single team in the NHL, sans Calgary. I’m no decision maker for any team but the second a big, young right handed defenseman, who also is on a reasonable contract with team control, becomes available, every general manager should be inquiring about him. Defensemen like that don’t exactly grow on trees. In my own hockey opinion, I do not think Calgary should trading Hamilton.

Anyway, let’s assume the Flames get a call from Toronto. What would they ask for? What would they be offered?

For starters, the Flames can cross off Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander from their list of wanted players. Toronto would hang up the phone faster than a Shea Weber slapshot. That most likely goes for Morgan Rielly and Nazem Kadri, as well. Players that could be in play are Jake Gardiner, James Van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak, Peter Holland, Martin Marincin, Connor Brown, and Frank Corrado from the big club. Other names the Flames could be enticed by are Kasperi Kapanen, Brendan Leipsic, Jeremy Bracco, Dmytro Timashov, Andreas Johnsson, Andrew Nielson, Carl Grundstrom, Travis Dermott… you get the point. Add the surplus of picks the Leafs have for this year and Toronto’s brass has a lot of assets to offer.

On the other side, Toronto probably doesn’t want to move Van Riemsdyk (yet), Gardiner or Brown. As much as Van Riemsdyk is a perfect trade chip, he still is tied as the highest scoring Maple Leaf this year. The interest in moving Gardiner is probably minimal, as they probably wouldn’t want to trade a top four defenseman for another. Brown is another unlikely candidate since it has been reported that Mike Babcock loves his game.

We have a good idea of what names are thrown around in this hypothetical deal. The real question is how does each team value him?

The answer to that question can go many different ways. There’s probably 30 different opinions about Hamilton. Some teams might think he’s a surefire number one, given the right situation. Other teams might think he is a decent second pairing guy. No one really knows the true value of any player in the league. Nevertheless, we can take a look at a few stats and facts to see where Hamilton’s value lies.

Here’s what we know: Dougie Hamilton is a 23-year-old, 6’5 right-handed defenseman. He signed a 6 year, $34.5 million dollar deal, with an average annual value (AAV) of $5.75 million. Comparable contracts with the same cap hit shows Tobias Enstrom, Matt Niskanen, and Andrei Markov. Only Hamilton plays about two minutes less than each of them. If only he was able to be on the ice a few more minutes a game that would look like a solid contract. However, Hamilton is used on the second pairing and is 4th in even strength time on ice, at 19:17, among defenseman, abhorrently behind Deryk Engelland.

Based on the depth chart, it shows Hamilton is predominantly used on the second pairing. That comes back to the asking price for Calgary; they cannot quite sell Hamilton as a top pairing defenseman if they are not going to treat him like one. The price for a top pairing defenseman is a lot steeper than a second pairing guy.

There’s a lot more to the former OHL star than just reading the box scores, though. Diving into the numbers, you can see Hamilton’s value creeps up a lot more. His even strength points/60 for defenseman who have played at least 100 minutes this season is among the top. At 1.49 points/60, he ranks 6th in that category, ahead of defenseman such as Erik Karlsson, Roman Josi, and Kris Letang.

His shot numbers look impressive, as well. Hamilton’s even strength SF% is at 55.8% which is good for 15th among defenseman. For all the anti-advanced stats people, I just have one question: wouldn’t you want a player who takes more shots than gives them up? Hamilton is quite good at that. His relative team SF60 at 8.2 shows this even more, which is 3rd among defenseman. The shot numbers look terrific, he drives play away from his end, and the team puts the puck on net more than the opposition when he is on the ice. Teammates are better when he is on the ice.

The problem with Dougie may just be luck. While on ice, the Flames are shooting just 6.31% and their save percentage is at an anemic .897%. PDO, which adds shooting percentage and save percentage to see how lucky a team or player are, seems to be Hamilton’s biggest rival. His PDO is at 96.1. Based on luck, he is 190th out of 204 qualifying defenseman. Yikes. Even with his unluckiness, he’s still better than people give him credit for.

Take a look at some comparable for Dougie Hamilton. One is Matt Niskanen, who makes the same amount as Hamilton. One is Jacob Trouba, who is considered an elite young defenseman. One is Ryan McDonagh, a defenseman that is regarded as a two-way top defenseman. See how Hamilton compares to the three of them:

Chart via

Chart via

Chart via

Chart via

Chart via

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Based on this evidence, we can see Hamilton is an undervalued asset. Calgary clearly values him as a second pairing defenseman. How could the Maple Leafs potentially value him?

Hamilton is something that the Maple Leafs don’t quite have yet, which is a potential top pairing right-handed shot. Their three right-handed shots on the roster right now are Nikita Zaitsev, Connor Carrick, and Roman Polak. I think it’s safe to say Hamilton would be a clear upgrade over Polak, and to a lesser extent, Carrick. Zaitsev is tough to compare just because his sample size isn’t big enough, but I’d think Hamilton is an upgrade as well. We also have to remember, Hamilton still is just 23 and won’t be a free agent until 2020. Having a young controllable player like Hamilton cannot be stated enough. If they were to get their hands on someone like Hamilton, he’d most likely be playing on the top pair night in and night out.

Based on what we know, it seems as if Calgary values Hamilton as a second pair blueliner, while Toronto probably sees him as a top pair guy.

So, what would a potential trade look like?

(Side note: remember these are hypothetical negotiations. Teams start off asking for a ton or lowballing. That’s how negotiations work.)

Calgary would want help on the wing, and depending on the player, a prospect, and pick, as well. Toronto could very well offer a package starting off with someone like Brendan Leipsic (who is absolutely NHL ready), throwing in a prospect such as Andreas Johnsson, and attaching a conditional future second round pick, based on the number of games Leipsic plays.

However, if I’m Calgary, my eyes are on Finnish hero Kasperi Kapanen. Getting a return that is headlined by Kasperi Kapanen would be clutch, as it would make the Flames prospect pool even better. My guess is that the Flames would ask for Kapanen and a first round pick.

In the end, if this hypothetical deal were to ever go through, a trade that both sides might agree on is Dougie Hamilton for Jeremy Bracco, Frank Corrado, a 2017 second round pick, and a 2018 second round pick. The Leafs get their desired defenseman, while the Flames get a highly regarded winger who’s torching the OHL and extremely close to being NHL ready. They also get a more than serviceable blueliner in Frank Corrado, who in a different situation could become a solid defenseman, and, of course, the two second rounders to sweeten the pot.

What do you think? Is the deal fair, or is it one-sided?  Does Hamilton get traded? If not to the Leafs, where does he go?



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