Dan Hamhuis is on a Pretty Team-Friendly Contract

"This right here, kids.. this is value."
Image via Canucks.com.

Every summer come July 1st, we see team’s break the bank to sign players to lucrative contracts that they’ll likely wind up regretting down the road. Yet they still do it, for some reason, and will continue to do so for years to come. Without conducting any sort of formal study, I’d venture to guess that the largest percentage of mistakes made by most GMs come on that day, when they find themselves getting caught up in the "frenzy", spending just for the sake of spending.

That has the agents of even relatively competent defensemen licking their lips, I’d bet. At every marquee NHL event – whether it be the trade deadline, or draft day, or July 1st – it seems like defensemen are a hot commodity. Every single team is looking for help at that position, and the demand far exceeds the supply. Which is why we see contracts such as Mark Streit for 4 year, $21 million or Dennis Wideman for 5 year, $26.25 million happen. Well, either that, or because Paul Holmgren and Jay Feaster are incredibly incompetent.

Recently, we’ve also seen a trend of teams placing a premium on locking up their young defensemen long-term, paying big bucks mostly based off of potential. As every day passes, and every new contract gets signed, I think to myself just how awesome the one Dan Hamhuis signed (6 years, $27 milliion) with the Canucks back on July 1st, 2010 is.

Read on past the jump for more on just how much value Hamhuis’ contract provides.

This is a Canucks blog, so I’m sure you’re all well aware of Hamhuis’ exploits on the ice. He’s not flashy, and likely won’t be making too many highlight reels. But he’s silky smooth, and he seems to make the right play every single time; when he makes a mistake, it sticks out like a sore thumb because of how rare an occurence it is. He logs heavy minutes, drives play in the right direction, and is as consistent as it gets. His most valuable skill in my opinion though is his rare ability to make the guys he plays with better. If you don’t believe me, just ask Kevin Bieksa.

Last offseason, I took a look at the top defensive pairings in the NHL, and sure enough, Vancouver’s top pairing of Hamhuis and Bieksa were in my top 5. With the arrival of Jason Garrison this season, that pairing was split up and Hamhuis was put next to Garrison (with Bieksa alternating between Andrew Alberts and Alex Edler for most of the season). Now, injuries certainly played a role, but the fact of the matter is that Bieksa completely cratered, while Hamhuis put together another season of not only playing an immensely high level of hockey himself, but also one where his partner was rock solid. Coincidence? I don’t believe in those.

As a quick aside, I’ve recently come across a good litmus test for finding out how invested in the game a hockey fan really is: tell them that you think Team Canada should bring Dan Hamhuis to Sochi next year, and see how they react. Chances are if you play this game with someone from Vancouver, or someone that follows hockey very closely, they’ll be onboard. Otherwise, you’ll probably get some resistance; after all, Hamhuis doesn’t do end-to-end rushes like a PK Subban, or shoot pucks through the net like a Shea Weber. Yet the fact still remains that I can’t name more than 12-15 defensemen that I’d rather have on my team for next season.

Hamhuis has three years left on his deal, with a cap hit of $4.5 million. As a frame of reference, that cap hit makes him the 4th (!!) highest paid defenseman on the Vancouver Canucks roster. I don’t know about you, but that kind of blows my mind. He’s easily the team’s most valuable defenseman, and has been since he got here. It’s impossible not to wonder how differently the 2011 Stanley Cup Final would have played out were he able to play more than 8 minutes and 9 seconds that he did in that series.

But let’s not spend any more time dwelling on that. Instead, I’ve got something uplifting for you; below is a screenshot of Dan Hamhuis’ top 20 contract comparables, provided by CapGeek:

That list has some pretty good defensemen in their own right, but realistically, how many of them are you taking over Dan Hamhuis? Ryan McDonagh? That’s about it, for me. At the top I referenced team’s dishing out money for their young defensemen mostly based off of potential. That includes Nashville who gave Roman Josi (7 years, $28 million), the Kings and Slava Voynov (6 years, $25 million), and the Jets with Zach Bogosian (7 years, $36 million). Remember when the Buffalo Sabres gave Tyler Myers $38.5 million over 7 years?

When comparing those deals with the one Hamhuis signed, keep in mind that every single one of those aforementioned defensemen had RFA years left (which leave them with less leverage, and in theory, a cheaper price tag. Daniel Wagner had a good post on this today). 

Dan Hamhuis was on the open market, and was heavily sought after. He was also a polished player who was about to sign a contract that would take him through the meat of his prime. Remember, both the Penguins and the Flyers acquired his rights before July 1st in an attempt to negotiate with him. Thankfully for the Canucks, Hamhuis decided that he wanted to return home, and in doing so provided the team with one of the best values in the entire league. If you think the team is in a salary cap bind now, imagine where they’d be if Hamhuis was making what a player of his skillset should be. 

  • Mantastic


    I completely agree (full disclosure I am a Canucks fan). Not many people praise the “defensive defenseman” these days, but Hamhuis is a great example. He is not only that but he moves the puck well out of his own end and he rarely turns it over. I felt terrible for him in the 2012 playoff vs. LA when he fell and turned the puck over to Lewis on the series ending goal. I was crushed for a guy who is usually so solid. He is a solid PK’er and doesn’t take many penalties. I am a Christian and I also love that he stands up for his faith.

    Thanks for the post,

  • JCDavies

    While I agree that in a vacuum Dan Hamhuis is a bargain, the problem with the Canucks cap structure is that the 10/50/31 core are all being paid for their UFA years.

    It’s why Boyd Gordon, for example, was impossible to sign even though he is a good fit for this team.

    Scan the projected roster for 2013-2014 and look for players who are on their ELCs or second/third contracts during their RFA years.


    Even a guy like Corrado is hardly a lock to make the team and would likely play a limited role until injuries arise.

    The last NHL regular drafted and developed by the Canucks is 2005 2nd rounder Mason Raymond who is now a UFA.

    Very few players on ELCs & second contracts equals limited surplus value.

    • Mantastic

      I tried finding a regular on the Canucks who was drafted after 2005, but you’re right, the last one was Raymond. We now have to go back to 2004 to find one.

      That is appaulingly bad as an organization. The blame for that falls squarely on Burke and Gillis. That’s just really awful.

      • Mantastic

        Part of that is the unfortunate passing of Luc Bourdon (RIP).

        Part of that is giving up on Michael Grabner.

        Part of that is giving up Cody Hodgson for Zack Kassian.

        I have a hard time blaming Burke & Nonis considering they found Bieksa, Kesler, Schneider, Edler, Hansen, Bourdon (RIP), Raymond & Grabner without the benefit of high picks.

        The majority of those guys played prominent roles on the 2011 SCF team along with top of the draft talents Sedin, Sedin & Luongo, two of which were acquired in shrewd trades by Burke & Nonis.

        The reason the cap management looked so good in 2011 is because a lot of players were in their pre-UFA years (Bieksa, Edler, Schneider, Kesler, Raymond, Hansen).

        The reason the cap management looks mediocre in the present is because the Canucks are too reliant on players in their prime earning years.

        • Mantastic

          I’ll give credit to Burke, but Nonis is increasingly seeming to be a fairly incompetent GM in my mind.

          Not only based on his time in Vancouver, but also his short tenure as GM in Toronto. He has made a ton of questionable moves there, noteably given Tyler Bozak over 4 million dollars a year with term.

          I mean, Bourdon and Hodgson cancel each other out in a comparison between Gillis and Nonis in my mind, as they were both pretty high picks.

          That basically leaves Grabner for Nonis. Corrado looks like he’s going to be in the win column for Gillis.

          Honestly, think back to the Nonis years, do remember his depth solutions? Arguably much worse than Gillis. Chouinard? Ritchie? Bulis? Pyatt?

          Nonis is just as, if not more, incompetent than Gillis as GM. The Burke/Nonis Era should be known solely as the Burke era.

          • Mantastic

            Nonis’ screwups in Toronto shouldn’t tarnish the players he acquired in Vancouver.

            It’s a lot more than just Grabner. Schneider, Edler, Hansen & Raymond were also drafted while Nonis was GM.

            And Bourdon (RIP) is a legitimate asterisk. Hodgson is not. Canucks management and medical staff are a large reason that relationship was strained, I’d argue.

            Nonis’ biggest legacy in Vancouver is trading for Luongo and drafting Schneider.

            He fixed the goalie graveyard as well as anybody could while Gillis has done everything possible to screw it up.

            Nonis may very well prove to be a poor GM in Toronto. But he had a hand in bringing virtually every core player on the 2011 team to Vancouver.

            Burke & Nonis built the foundation of the 2011 team not Gillis.

          • Mantastic

            I’m not giving Nonis credit for Kennan being a complete idiot.

            Nor am I giving him full credit for the 2004 draft, Burke would’ve had a huge hand in that, Nonis being his understudy and all. Even if Burke wasn’t physically at the draft, he would’ve been involved in targetting certain players all year long.

            Bourdon is a legitimate asterisk, but if the core of the 2011 team is the Sedins, Kesler, Salo (way underrated in his time here), the only one you can say 100% that Nonis brought in of the core is Luongo. And really, it’s a miracle the Canucks got Luongo in the first place. Bertuzzi? Seriously? If Gillis had set his bar as low as Kennan did Luongo would be playing for a different team next year, only at that point Luongo had a fairly high trade value relative to today.

            Gillis did more for the 2011 team than Nonis ever did. He brought in Malhotra, Torres, Samuelsson, Hamhuis, Ehrhoff. I’m not arguing Gillis is amazing and the greatest ever, but Nonis is equal to Gillis in greatness, if not worse than him.

          • Mantastic

            The only impact player Gillis brought in that was noteworthy was Ehrhoff.

            And that was a phenomenal trade, mind you.

            Any Canuck GM would have accepted Hamhuis’ gift to the province of BC.

            Was signing Samuelsson actually worth giving up Grabner? Could Grabner not have done the same on that team?

            This isn’t about Burke & Nonis being great GMs. I don’t like what either has done in Toronto so far.

            It’s about giving credit where credit is due.

            Gillis made one great trade for Ehrhoff, accepted Dan Hamhuis’ gift and found good depth/role players.

            All of that is meaningless if not for Burke & Nonis bringing the Sedins, Lou, Schneider, Bieksa, Edler, Salo, Burrows, Raymond & Hansen to Vancouver.

  • JCDavies

    Drafting has been terrible, the only thing that has saved the Nucks is signing FAs like Tanev and Edler. Hammy is a bargain and frankly I believe the Canucks have the best 1-6 D-corps in the league. They are only missing that one big player that takes over games ala Weber or Pronger. I think Edler can step into that type of role under Torts. The biggest improvement for the Nucks this year will be having 3 solid pairings that have complimentary skills. Bieksa/Hammy…Edler/Tanev….Garrison/Corrado. Each pairing has an Offensively skilled guy with a defensively responsible puck moving guy. Having defined roles and constant partners hopefully will end miscommunications and reckless Play. Everyone talks about top forward pairings and their production, but the Nucks need chemistry with their D pairings. That will help out the goaltending as mich as anything.

      • Mantastic

        Only players that make B’s and Hawks D better is Chara and Kieth are top D men that shut down top lines and lets see what Torts and Sullivan can do with our D. In my post I mentioned that if Edler can step up and be the all around top D man and Torts can get the, to play together as a unit. Add Harrison’s cannon to the top PP line and his Goals will be back to AllStar status. My whole contention is that AV mishandled the D which made them play as individuals not as a unit. I was hoping John Stevens would come in and do what he did for Drew Doughty, but Sullivan has a great track record also. This corps has room for improvement and will be the back bone of the team.

        • Mantastic

          you’re deluted if you think Vancouver is the top D in the nhl if they all have to hit career years, which clearly means they aren’t top now. drew doughty was an elite prospect with a huge upside, how do you think you a coach was the one that created the star? or can convert edler into one… you do know that jack johnson was also a “student” of stevens…

          • JCDavies

            You seem to believe that everything is black and white and either you’re an elite prospect that peaks at 19 or you just trash them. boy of has been doin alright I would say and the rest of ten Kings D men aren’t near the talent of Tanev Garrison or Bieksa. Obviously coaching doesnt matter to you. AV has coached these guys their entire careers, for you to believe a different approach can’t improve players is delusional. Guess in your world coaches only matter in Junior hockey then you are either a player or a bust. Sad way to look at hockey in the offseason. All the other teams should lie down and let Boston and Chi play for the cup again.

          • JCDavies

            “AV has coached these guys their entire careers, for you to believe a different approach can’t improve players is delusional.”

            A different approach can just as easily make a player worse.

          • Mantastic

            not saying that at all. coaching doesn’t turn a good player into a super star but can turn a good player into a better one. Edler suddenly turning a corner when he’s 26, past his key developmental years, to turn into a super elite D-man when he couldn’t even handle top pairing minutes is a huge stretch.

            you clearly don’t understand the development of players. junior players do either turn into players or busts, welcome to the world of prospects! more often than not, people bust out of the NHL, just the fact of life.