Photo Credit: Ed Mulholland/USA TODAY Sports
Travis Hamonic is a very good hockey player, and by all accounts an excellent guy.
For family reasons, the New York Islanders are trying to trade Hamonic, a very good defenseman, to a Western Canadian club, according to an original report from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman with TSN’s Darren Dreger filling in some crucial blanks. Before we proceed, let’s say that we hope for a favourable resolution for Hamonic and his family and wish them all the best, whatever the issue may be.
While we won’t speculate on the situation itself, we will delve into what sort of player Hamonic is, and whether the Vancouver Canucks might be a team that makes sense as a trading partner for the Islanders.
Let’s go over what we know. For personal family-related reasons Hamonic has asked the Islanders to facilitate a trade involving him, and in fact, asked the club for a trade prior to the start of the season, according to Dreger.
Hamonic’s family issues are localized in Western Canada, he hails from Manitoba originally and played junior hockey in Moose Jaw and Brandon, so Dreger reports that he’d prefer to go to one of four teams: the Winnipeg Jets, the Calgary Flames, the Edmonton Oilers, or the Vancouver Canucks.
This is a really tough situation for the Islanders. The 25-year-old top-pair defenseman is a right-handed shooter with an extraordinarily team-friendly contract. He’s under team control at an affordable $3.857 million annual average value through the 2020 season. His salary is higher than his cap hit, so an acquiring team is acquiring the moderately less beneficial years of his deal, but it’s still a bargain price for a defender who can effectively log 22 minutes a night in all situations.
The Islanders are an organization that could be in win now mode, but are generally budget conscious and are furthermore having some issues selling tickets in their new barn in Brooklyn, NY. Considering the way the Brooklyn-based team is straddling the present and the future, considering how hard it is to find top-pair quality right-handed defenseman and considering Hamonic’s team-friendly deal, this is a tough blow.
No one ever wants to move a player like Hamonic, and if the Islanders do so, they want a similar sort of player back – a young-ish player with top-of-the-roster capabilities signed long-term to a reasonable contract. Good luck.
The problem with them trading Travis Hamonic,” one exec said, “is they want… Travis Hamonic.”
Several sources indicate Snow is not interested in a picks or prospects type of return. He’s looking for equal-level replacement.
That’s reason No. 1 this hasn’t happened yet. There aren’t a lot of these players available.
Friedman’s choice of words ‘equal-level replacement’ would imply that the Islanders are looking for a defenseman. Dreger’s choice of words is simply ‘equitable player’, which would give suitors a bit more wiggle room.
Hamonic has managed the best shot-attempt differential among Islanders defensemen this season and is leading all Islanders blue liners in ice time. For a big market club like the Canucks, Hamonic having a higher salary than cap hit is of no consequence, in fact, it means that he fits better into the club’s long-term salary structure.
Theoretically speaking, Hamonic will also still be under contract, and still be a reasonable bet to be in his prime, by the time the Canucks’ hybrid-style rebuild has put the team back into contention mode.
In Chris Tanev, the Canucks would seem to have a reasonably facsimile of Hamonic. Tanev is the better defensive player, probably by a decent margin, but Hamonic is the better offensive player. They’re both signed through 2020 and are within a million dollars in the total value remaining on their deals, though Hamonic has the lower cap hit over the life of their respective deals.
The problem with this is that a rational actor probably doesn’t deal Tanev for Hamonic straight up. Even if Tanev is slightly more expensive over the life of his deal, he’s very probably the better defensive player and that’s the main value that either defenseman provides. He’s the better defender by the shot-based metrics (although Hamonic’s results away from Andy MacDonald have generally been very good) and he’s definitely an elite penalty killer, which Hamonic is not.
It’s difficult to see another piece on the Canucks roster that is even remotely analogous. The club doesn’t have a lot of players in that ‘high-end, 25-year-old signed long-term’ sort of range. No one does! The Canucks definitely don’t have any pieces like that up front, and on the back-end, we’re probably talking about Tanev and, yeah, no one else realistically.
The prospect of trotting out a blue-line group constructed around a quartet of reasonably compensated defensemen in Hamonic, Tanev, Alex Edler and Ben Hutton for the next half decade is appealing. And Jim Benning and Garth Snow have conducted business before – when Vancouver sent Alexandre Mallet and a third-round pick to the Islanders for Andrey Pedan. Still, it’s tough to see how the Canucks have the pieces to help Hamonic be closer to his family while also helping Garth Snow and the Islanders get off of the mat.
Hopefully this works out for all involved. At first blush, the sort of deal the Islanders are hoping to make doesn’t really look like a fit for the Canucks though.