After taking a puck to the face in early December and missing 21 games, Dan Hamhuis made his return to the lineup on Saturday. The Canucks have missed him in their lineup, but they have also missed him as a bargaining chip.
The Canucks are/should be in rebuild-mode and Hamhuis will be a very attractive piece for a team looking to load up at the trade deadline at the end of the month.
A lot will depend on how well Hamhuis can rebound after missing so many games, but given his track record of being an extremely reliable top-4 defenceman for many years will be enough to create a trade market for him.
It will also depend on whether Canucks management feel the playoffs are out of reach. As it stands right now, the Canucks are 5 points behind the Anaheim Ducks for the final playoff spot in the Pacific. The Ducks also have a game in hand.
Regardless if they feel they can make the playoffs, trading Hamhuis is the prudent thing to do.
But in order for any deal to be completed, Hamhuis has to sign off on it. The 33-year-old defenceman has a full no-trade clause, although as we have seen with Jason Garrison, Ryan Kesler, and Kevin Bieksa, those clauses can be waived.
Thus, as we did a couple of weeks ago with Radim Vrbata, let’s look at some possible destinations for the Smithers, BC native to be moved to.
Currently clinging to a wild card spot, the Pittsburgh Penguins are always a threat with a healthy Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
Their defence is suspect after their first pairing of Kris Letang and Olli Maata. A player like Hamhuis would be attractive to help provide depth behind that first pairing.
Pens GM Jim Rutherford has shown in the past that he can and will be aggressive when he sees an opportunity to improve his club. If goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury continues his hot play into the playoffs and the Penguins add depth in the form of Hamhuis, they could easily make some noise in the playoffs.
Possible Trade Bait
Derrick Pouliot has been the apple of Canucks fans’ eyes for awhile now and it would make sense from a Canucks perspective to try and pry the 22-year-old defenceman away from the Penguins. Sending Hamhuis alone might not be able enough to acquire the former first round pick but it could happen. Otherwise, the Penguins have two second round picks (one conditional on them making the playoffs) for the upcoming draft that they may move for immediate help like Hamhuis.
Last week, I suggested that Vrbata would be a good fit for the Dallas Stars, as they just try to outscore their problems. However adding a defenceman like Hamhuis should and likely is at the top of their priority list.
Their first pairing of Alex Goligoski and John Klingberg dominates offensively and have great possession numbers. Their bottom-4 defencemen aren’t terrible but could definitely be improved, so Hamhuis could slide into the second pairing and help stabilize. The Western conference is ripe for the picking, so if a team like Dallas is aggressive to add complimentary pieces to their core, they could easily give themselves a long playoff run.
Possible Trade Bait
Same as a possible Vrbata trade scenario, the Stars have a great stable of prospects, defencemen specifically, that the Canucks would find attractive. Ludwig Bystrom and Mattias Backman are two defensive prospects that the Stars may peddle for immediate help.
From the forward ranks, the Stars have Remi Elie, Devin Shore, Radek Faksa, and Jason Dickinson as possible moveable pieces. The Stars still have their first and second round picks for 2016 and 2017 NHL Entry Drafts. Thus from an asset point of view, there is nothing really holding the Stars back from loading up.
New York Islanders
The New York Islanders have been trending up for a few years and are finally in a position to make some noise in the playoffs. Adding veteran players like Dan Hamhuis would help to support their young stars like John Tavares, Ryan Strome, and Brock Nelson to give something the new fans in Brooklyn could get excited about.
It really is an impressive feat that the Islanders have compiled such a fantastic young core and are still bursting at the seams with even more talent in their prospect pool.
The Islanders have good depth in their defensive core with Nick Leddy, Johnny Boychuck, Travis Harmonic, Calvin De Haan, and Marek Zidlicky. Given that Hamhuis wouldn’t be required to do the heavy lifting and would just slide into the group, it is a perfect fit.
Possible Trade Bait
Islanders’ defenceman Travis Hamonic had requested a trade to a western Canadian team before the season began and nothing has happened thus far. The Canucks would obviously need to add something on their end but maybe there is a fit there.
When it come to the Islanders, it is really hard to speculate who they would move as they have so many great prospects.
Could the Islanders be willing to move a young defenceman like Ryan Pulock? Or would they try to leverage Hamonic’s trade request for help? The Islanders also have two good goaltending prospects in Linus Soderstrom and Ilya Sorokin. They could move one of those two to help solidify their defensive core.
Dan Hamhuis could easily make a return to the only other NHL team he has played for.
The Predators traded Seth Jones last month to acquire Ryan Johansen and thus has created a small hole in their bottom defensive pairing. Players like Petter Granberg and Anthony Bitteto have being filling in there, but adding Hamhuis would solidify the Predators defence.
For a team looking to make it past the second round for the first time in their existence, adding a defenceman like Hamhuis would give them one of the best defensive cores in the league.
Possible Trade Bait
Last week I suggested players like Jimmy Vesey, Colton Sissons, Jack Dougherty, and Yakov Trenin are players that could possibly be on the move. Obviously there is different levels of availability for all those players, but those are names that I could see the Predators moving somewhere on trade deadline day.
I would also add players like Auston Watson, Pontus Aberg, and Alexandre Carrier as players that could be on the move. Really depends if Nashville GM David Poile pushes all in on this year.
It was suggested at the end of January by Chuck Gormley of CSN Mid-Atlantic that the Washington Capitals could go hard after Hamhuis when he returns from injury.
Capitals head coach Barry Trotz coached Hamhuis for six years in Nashville before Hamhuis made his way to the Canucks as a free agent.
The Caps are also a team that will load up with their eye on the Stanley Cup. They have a fantastic core, great depth, great goaltending, and plenty of young players and picks that they could move for help throughout their lineup.
Possible Trade Bait
I don’t think the Capitals would move Madison Bowey, Jakob Vrana, or Ilya Samsonov in a deal for Hamhuis, but there is no way to predict what the market will be on February 29th. We’ve seen in years past that teams can panic at the last minute and make a deal that in hindsight looks terribly one-sided. The deal that sent Filip Forsberg to Nashville by Washington is a perfect example.
Ideally, the Canucks would have their eyes on Bowey and would add small pieces to make it happen. Only time will tell on this one.
The Caps have to be thinking that this is their year, and going after the best defenceman available is certainly something that would appeal to them.
All the options above are just possible fits, another team could easily swoop in and make an offer the Canucks can’t refuse. Ideally the Canucks will start putting the leg work in now with hopes of driving up the price for trade deadline day. By doing so, maybe players like Madison Bowey, Derrick Pouliot or Ryan Pulock are brought up and the Canucks can take advantage of another team panicking.