It’s not often you see a defenceman go from top four to the waiver wire in a matter of months.
That’s the situation Travis Hamonic is in. The Vancouver Canucks placed the 31-year-old on waivers a little more than two months after they signed him to a two-year, $6 million extension.
Unlike most players who hit waivers, Hamonic’s demotion isn’t performance-related. This is a player the Canucks would love to have on their roster. However, he remains away from the team, officially, for “personal matters,” which many believe is vaccine-related.
“It’s bigger than what you guys think it is,” GM Jim Benning told reporters on Monday.
Still, the idea that this is vaccine-related was reinforced by the fact that Benning stated the team was now 100% vaccinated, immediately after Hamonic’s demotion.
This is a player who’s been through a lot. ESPN did a feature on him back in 2014 about his father’s sudden passing. Hamonic also opted out of the 2020 playoffs, citing his daughter’s health. So the Canucks are giving him all the time he needs to figure out his future.
In a normal situation, the Canucks would get $1.125 million in cap relief by sending Hamonic to the minors. Hamonic would receive his full $3 million salary, but only count $1.875 million against Vancouver’s cap.
But of course, this isn’t a normal situation.
There are a few scenarios for Hamonic and the Canucks moving forward.
Unvaccinated players will lose money, provide cap savings
According to the COVID protocols set out by the NHL, players will forego their salary if/when they miss team activities due to not being fully vaccinated. The NHL also confirmed that NHL teams will not have that salary count towards the salary cap.
In short, Hamonic would theoretically forfeit close to half of his $3 million salary if he joins the Canucks and plays NHL games without being fully vaccinated. Players can’t cross the border into the United States without being fully vaccinated, and soon they won’t be allowed to travel on planes within Canada too.
Vancouver has 33 of 41 road games in US cities this season.
In the league’s 2021-22 COVID protocols, the NHL gives an example of a player forfeiting 1/200th of their pay for every day missed. In Hamonic’s situation, that equates to about $15,000 per day before tax.
One caveat for suspending a player due to being unvaccinated is that they can avoid suspension if they have a legitimate medical reason for not being vaccinated, or if this infringes on their religious beliefs.
What happens in Abbotsford
Benning said Monday that he expects Hamonic will report to Abbotsford. The Canucks, of course, have the option to tell him to stay home. That’s what the Columbus Blue Jackets did with Zac Rinaldo, who will collect his full $300,000 AHL salary but won’t play for their farm team.
Because Hamonic signed a one-way contract, in this scenario, he would collect his full $3 million salary and count $1.875 million against the Canucks’ cap.
If Hamonic is allowed to play for Abbotsford, he would miss nearly half his team’s games. All but eight of Abbotsford’s away games are played in the United States.
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