Rumors of the Flames looking to trade defenseman Dougie Hamilton for some scoring help just won't go away.
Nearly two months into the NHL season, Calgary Flames defenseman Dougie Hamilton is now a hot topic of trade speculation among the hockey punditry.
Hamilton, 23, got off to a slow start with the Flames this season. The puck-moving blueliner went pointless during a 10-game stretch from Oct. 30 to Nov. 18, and netted only six points in his first 19 games.
The Hamilton rumors initially surfaced in late October, when TSN's Pierre LeBrun reported of talk he could be available. LeBrun said one team made inquiries but didn't get far.
As Hamilton and the Flames struggled through November, the trade chatter only grew. On Nov. 12, Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos expressed doubt that the Flames were shopping the rearguard, but claimed the Arizona Coyotes and Pittsburgh Penguins were “kicking tires.” Two days later, Kypreos' colleague Elliotte Friedman said he'd heard Hamilton's name come up in trade discussions back in June.
Hamilton subsequently told the Calgary's Sun's Wes Gilbertson he'd heard the trade rumors but wasn't paying attention to them. He insisted he was happy playing in Calgary and wanted to help the Flames improve.
Entering Wednesday's match-up with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Flames have posted a 5-3-1 record in their last nine games. With 22 points, they're only three behind Los Angeles for a wild-card berth. Hamilton's production also improved, with six points in as many games. However, the trade talk persists.
But Flames president of hockey operations Brian Burke is not happy about those trade talks.
During an appearance on Leafs Lunch Wednesday Burke shot down the rumors, lashed out at the team that leaked the idea, and made it clear the Flames intend to keep Hamilton.
“We expended a tremendous amount of assets to get this player. We’re really happy with him. He’s a quality guy. ... He’s a right shot. He skates like a deer. He’s a good hockey player. Yeah, let’s move him. Let’s get rid of him. It’s not hard to get guys like that."
USA Today's Kevin Allen last week made the case for the New York Rangers to pursue Hamilton. He believes the youngster can fill the Blueshirts need for a mobile defender with a right-handed shot.
On Monday, NHL analyst Bob McKenzie was asked by Toronto's TSN 1050 if the Toronto Maple Leafs could be interested in Hamilton. McKenzie speculates they probably are, though he doesn't know if Hamilton's available. He said the Flames are “definitely listening” on Hamilton, but that doesn't mean they intend to trade him.
McKenzie subsequently noted recent speculation linking the Maple Leafs to Hamilton, reporting no substantive talks between the two clubs. Some observers believe the Leafs should offer up promising winger William Nylander for Hamilton, but McKenzie claims they're not keen to do that. If the Leafs decide at some point to shop a winger for a defenseman, he believes James van Riemsdyk could be the likely trade candidate.
With scoring star Johnny Gaudreau sidelined indefinitely by finger surgery, the Flames are mired in the league's bottom third in goals-for per game (2.20). Even when Gaudreau returns later this season, the Flames could probably use more scoring punch.
Hamilton is the perfect trade chip to add another scoring forward. He's big (6-foot-6, 210 pounds), moves the puck well, has consecutive 40-plus point performances on his resume and his best seasons are ahead of him. It's assumed he could improve his overall game with better coaching.
All of those factors, however, are also good reasons why the Flames shouldn't part with Hamilton. He's still young with considerable upside. By trading him, there's a real risk he could reach his full potential elsewhere.
It'll take a substantial offer to pry him away from the Flames, probably a very good young forward. That could mean someone like Nylander or Coyotes left winger Max Domi, or perhaps an experienced physical scorer such as Chris Kreider of the Rangers.
Hamilton's contract is also a sticking point. At $5.75 million per season through 2020-21, there simply aren't many teams able to take on that salary right now. If the Flames do move Hamilton, it'll likely happen in the off-season, when teams have more cap space and a willingness to trade.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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