It’s a decision that makes you sigh and scratch your head thinking about, when wondering what may transpire this summer between Dan Hamhuis and the Vancouver Canucks. The Smithers, BC native loves playing in the city, and the city has loved watching Hamhuis.
Benning on Hamhuis: “We like Dan. We want to ty and figure out something that works for him and us.” #Canucks
— Canucks Now (@CanucksNow) May 2, 2016
Shouldn’t the process be easy? Unfortunately, it’s often not as simple as it sounds when talking about the business side of hockey.
Even at 33-years old, Hamhuis has lots left in the tank to offer on any team’s blue line. He’s been through many highs and lows as a player in the pros, and at this point in his career he’ll be a bonafide leader for any team that inks him this summer.
It’s easy to like Hamhuis. He’s been one of the most valuable players in the Canucks lineup since he signed with Vancouver in 2010. He leads by example on the ice, and leads in the community to boot. Losing the longtime-Canuck Hamhuis would have a similar magnitude to saying goodbye to lifetime-Canuck Kevin Bieksa when he was traded last summer. The two players differ in their contract situations, but hardly do in terms of their lasting impact on the fan base.
In his 12-year NHL career, he’s been a free agent for only about six hours, officially. That was back on July 1, 2010, when he didn’t wait to sign a long-term deal in Vancouver, even when he was reportedly offered more money to sign elsewhere. This time around, however, he’ll likely last a little longer in free agency before any final decisions come about.
Is Keeping Hamhuis in Vancouver Plausible?
For a player who goes about his business as quietly as Hamhuis, his involvement with hockey in BC and the community of Vancouver certainly doesn’t go unheard. He’s offered no signs publicly of wanting to leave playing in Vancouver. So assuming the Canucks make him an offer, the potential for a little more money elsewhere likely isn’t enough to stray Hamhuis from BC living.
But with the number of players under contract already on the back-end next year, do the Canucks have room for Hamhuis? Of left-handed defensemen, Alex Edler is the consensus no. 1. Ben Hutton showed as a rookie he can likely handle a top-four role full-time. Luca Sbisa isn’t necessarily ahead of Hamhuis on the depth chart, but the Canucks are stuck with his contract. Nikita Tryamkin is bound to fit in somewhere, and RFA Andrey Pedan can be a cheap depth option.
So there’s some strings to pull should the Canucks lay out an offer to Hamhuis this summer. But the front office knows the value of keeping him, otherwise general manager Jim Benning would’ve dealt him for some sort of asset when those offers were present before the trade deadline. With a team transitioning younger like the Canucks, the need for leadership from veteran players can’t be overlooked.
Horvat on Burrows and Hamhuis :” Absolutely would love to see both back, great teammates, to lose them would be tough in the room. #Canucks
— NEWS 1130 Sports (@NEWS1130Sports) May 12, 2016
On the blue line in particular, there’s no one who brings it more than Hamhuis. He’s the only defensemen currently on the Canucks roster older than 30, and only one other d-man is within five years in age (Edler). And Hamhuis has a lot of game left, which he showed when he returned only two months after a gruesome broken jaw injury and played his best hockey of the year over the final two months.
But he can’t be expected to provide a lot offensively, and the Canucks have made it clear they want more production from their blue line. The team’s defense group is also in need of some kind of change, as they were one of the league’s worst last season. Despite this, the veteran presence and steadiness of a player like Hamhuis is something that may be hard to live without.
That being said, it’s reasonable to believe that Hamhuis may want to play for a team ready to contend. Let’s not forget, the summer-of-2010 Canucks were chalked up as Stanley Cup favorites. The potential for a deep playoff run was the hook to go along with the line and the sinker in Vancouver putting a contract offer on the table for Hamhuis. Sure enough, Hamhuis played in 19 games in the 2011 postseason, but that’s the only time in his career he’s played beyond the first round of the playoffs.
So with all things considered, there’s less than two months now for the Canucks to negotiate with Hamhuis, before he’s no longer the team’s property as of July 1 — whether that lasts or not. At the very least, the front office seems to know what they have in the elder statesman on their blue line.
Holding on to the past? Maybe, but the situation with Hamhuis is, more so than most of the Canucks core players, about holding onto a player who’s an asset.
Canucks contributor for The Hockey Writers. Maple Ridge, BC native. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or @ColtonnDavies on Twitter.