The Vancouver Canucks have reportedly brought in Travis Hamonic on a professional try-out contract and it changes everything on the defence core.
Elliotte Freidman of Sportsnet was first to report that Hamonic to Vancouver rumblings we’re getting loud.
The story was confirmed by Rick Dhaliwal of TSN1040 and The Athletic just minutes later. He also pointed out that the Canucks were out on free agent right-shot defenceman Sami Vatanen two days ago.
This is a great move for the Canucks, as their defence corps had a ton of question marks surrounding it going into training camp. A dependable, veteran NHL defenceman who has averaged over 20 minutes of ice time in each of the 10 NHL seasons he has played in his career is an excellent addition to their blue line.
Adding him on a no-risk PTO is also kind of a shocker. There was a belief that Hamonic was sure to get a shot with a team on a one-year contract but some still believed there could have been term attached to it.
Hamonic played in 50 of a possible 70 games last season for the Calgary Flames.
It’s about time we stole one back…
When the Flames entered the Edmonton bubble, Hamonic did not attend due to COVID-19 concerns but he was also nursing a upper-body injury prior to the suspension of the regular season in March.
The injury came from a J.T. Miller hit on February 8th.
Hamonic was the most consistent penalty killer for the Flames last season.
He played alongside Mark Giordano for a majority of his penalty-killing time but still led the Flames in PKTOI/GP.
At 30 years old, Hamonic is a veteran presence who played in a very similar role to Chris Tanev last season.
Except that Hamonic had a much better season in 2019-20 than Tanev did. It should also be noted that Hamonic wasn’t playing with Quinn Hughes, he was playing with Noah Hanifin. Remember him and the 2018 NHL Draft?
Though Hamonic was playing with a weaker defence partner, he put up better numbers in some pretty important advanced stats categories.
So from this form of looking at what Hamonic brings to an NHL lineup, he is actually an upgrade to Chris Tanev.
Now, this is just one way of looking at things. The loss of Chris Tanev is something that will affect things all around the ice. Alex Edler is now the only remaining player to play in the Canucks 2011 Stanley Cup run. Tanev has been a warrior as a Canuck and the players really seemed to enjoy being around him and his pug Riley. Tanev did a great job for the Canucks on the power play for years and that kind of loss leaves a hole in an organization.
To fill that hole you need to promote from within or try-out a player who has done a similar job on a different team.
Hamonic added more possible defence pairings to a blue line that already had so many questions going into training camp.
The first thing that came to my mind was the idea that Jack Rathbone has a real chance of making this team now. For a long time, the most realistic third pairing was going to be Olli Juolevi with Jordie Benn on his off-side. Adding Hamonic as the right side defenceman on the third pairing means that the Canucks should try to have a good puck mover with him as Hamonic plays a quiet game and really lets his partner shine.
Juolevi is a fine puck mover, and he probably still has the inside track to being the young defenceman who gets a promotion to the NHL lineup, but there’s something there in Rathbone. He’s got that star quality about how he plays. With Juolevi, you are going to get a lot of what you heard on the day he was drafted. He’s a smart player who makes the right play every time he has an extra second but can make bad decisions when under pressure. He’s battled injuries, so that’s still a question going into camp.
Rathbone should be playing with Hamonic on the third pairing to start the season.
Though it’s not the most probable situation, there is still a chance that Rathbone shows some star potential. If that’s the case, then the Canucks should be playing him as much as possible with Hamonic and in that world, the Canucks defence is much better than it was last season.
This also has a ripple effect on the top four group. Adding Hamonic as a top penalty killer means that if Juolevi is in the lineup, then Nate Schmidt doesn’t need to take on penalty killing minutes. With no penalty killing time, Schmidt could see more 5-on-5 time, maybe even with Quinn Hughes.
These two should be the power play quarterbacks on each power play unit and the other four will be playing more of a defensive game. The pairing of Hughes and Schmidt would play upwards of 17-19 minutes of 5-on-5 and that would help generate even-strength offence at a much higher rate.
There are some options now with Hamonic, who might even find himself alongside Alex Edler in a top-four role. What if Travis Green believes Hamonic is the best fit to play with Hughes because of his similar qualities to Tanev?
Training Camp begins on Monday and it should be an interesting one, to say the least.
We will have you covered from top to bottom at training camp, bringing you live mailbags, video content and will be reporting on any breaking news straight from the arena.
We at CanucksArmy are ecstatic to be given access to another Vancouver Canucks training camp, and are looking forward to making it another successful one for the site.