According to Rick Dhaliwal of Donnie and Dhali, Vancouver Canucks defenceman Travis Hamonic is weighing his options of either opting out of the 2021-22 season or retiring from the NHL. It’s not entirely clear why Hamonic is doing this, but reports have indicated that it’s due to personal reasons not because he’s against vaccination.
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Before the NHL restart back in 2020, Hamonic opted out of participating in the playoffs citing concerns about bringing the virus back to his daughter who was, and is still, battling a respiratory illness.
Due to what my daughter already has gone through and the concerns if she were to catch COVID-19, I’ve decided to opt out and seek a leave of absence from the Calgary Flames for the remainder of the playoffs. I wish I could lace up my skates and be out there battling, blocking a shot and helping the team win, but my family has and always will come first. Being my little kids’ dad every day is the most important job I have.Travis Hamonic
Clearly, Hamonic values his family above all else. In the end, he should be allowed to make this decision based on that fact. As much as we all love hockey, it is just a game and family should always come first. If he ultimately sits out the season or retires, the Canucks will have to just find a way to move forward without his services.
Hamonic was going to be a key penalty killer for the Canucks and most likely the primary partner of Quinn Hughes. Without him, they will have a pretty big hole to fill on the right side. Let’s take a look at three defencemen that will have to step up their games this season because of his absence.
With Hamonic gone, Luke Schenn will be pressed into action as a regular, everyday defenceman this season. A prolific penalty killer, shot blocker, and physical presence, he is the closest match to what Hamonic usually brings to the lineup. His ice time should spike to 15-20 minutes instead of his usual 10-15 on a pairing with Hughes and he will likely see a lot of minutes on the penalty kill as well.
Schenn has not seen that much ice since the 2016-17 season with the Arizona Coyotes when he posted an average of 18:03 per night. He also recorded 2:14 on the penalty kill which was second only to Alex Goligoski’s 2:28. That season he posted a career-high 286 hits and again was second only to Goligoski in blocked shots with 134. If he can replicate that performance during the 2021-22 campaign, the Canucks will barely notice that Hamonic is gone.
Another new defenceman to the Canucks roster, Tucker Poolman has already displayed some terrific chemistry with fellow newbie Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Head coach Travis Green has paired the two together since training camp began and they have looked really good so far. Projected to be the new shutdown pairing ala Alex Edler and Chris Tanev, they will be counted upon to provide solid two-way defence all season long.
Without Hamonic’s services, Poolman will join Schenn as one of the Canucks’ primary penalty killers. Last season with the Winnipeg Jets, he saw an average of 1:19 shorthanded, which ranked him fourth behind Derek Forbort, Dylan DeMelo, and Nathan Beaulieu. This season, he stands to double that number as he will likely be one of the first defencemen over the boards when the team is short-handed. Considering Hamonic and Alex Edler logged 1:59 and 3:28 respectively, the Canucks will need one of Schenn or Poolman to not only take some of those minutes but excel while doing it too.
Hamonic or no Hamonic, Tyler Myers needs to step up and improve this season. He was already one of the minute munchers on the penalty kill last season with 3:12 per game, but now he will be counted upon to provide more consistent defence 5-on-5 as well.
Myers’ frequent trips to the sin bin and mediocre defensive game have been topics of discussion amongst Canucks’ fans and the media ever since he joined the team back in 2019. Over the past two seasons, he was second only to Edler in penalty minutes with 112 and his plus/minus column has not seen a plus yet. His Corsi-for percentage (CF%) has not been overly good either as he dropped to a 43 after posting a 48.2 in his first season. If they hope to make the playoffs this year, Myers has to find a way to not only stay out of the box but also play a better brand of defence as well.
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Should the Canucks Look at Free Agency or Trade to Replace Hamonic?
General manager Jim Benning might feel the need to replace Hamonic through free agency or the trade market. Except, that would be a mistake. If he opts out of the season or retires, they will get a $3 million reprieve that should be used on Hughes and Elias Pettersson, not on another middling defenceman. Besides, the only free agent out there that could potentially replace him is Jason Demers and he already nixed a trade to the Canucks back in 2017. So, barring a trade that brings in a budget-friendly contract, they should just go with what they have right now and hope for the best.
The Canucks will be back in action on Friday against the Calgary Flames, which is the deadline for Hamonic’s decision to opt-out of the 2021-22 season. If he does in fact sit out and they gain that extra $3 million in cap space, we will see how long it takes before Hughes and Pettersson are re-signed. Until then, all we can do is wait.