Two summers ago, the Bruins traded away Tyler Seguin. Hours before the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, the Bruins traded away Dougie Hamilton, another young star in the making.
The parallels between these two trades are striking. Hamilton and Seguin were drafted using picks acquired in the Phil Kessel deal. They both entered the league as top ten picks with the potential to be a franchise player. Each player had just completed his third season in the NHL.
Despite the similarities, the trades that sent these two players out of Boston were drastically different.
When the Bruins shipped Seguin to Dallas, it was less than 10 months after he had agreed to a six-year contract extension. At the time of the trade, he had just entered the first year of that deal, which came with an annual cap hit of $5.75 million. The deal, which would take Seguin through his age 27 season, looked like great value for a player poised to become a top offensive threat in the league.
The only uncertainty surrounding Seguin’s contract situation was the pending lockout (at the time of the extension). When the lockout was resolved, the salary cap ceiling was lowered, slightly reducing the ultimate value that Boston’s was getting from Seguin’s deal.
Hamilton’s contract situation was not as straight forward. Unlike Seguin, Hamilton was prepared to reach restricted free agency. The Bruins most certainly looked to lock Hamilton up to a long-term deal, but were unable to reach an agreement. To make matters more complicated, Boston was facing a cap crunch, forcing them to move salaries out to remain cap compliant.
If Hamilton was pushing to get top dollar, Boston, while capable, was not well-positioned to accommodate that request. An extension would have pushed the Bruins over the cap, putting them at a significant disadvantage in the trade negotiations that would be required to move other players.
When the Bruins drafted Seguin, they did so with the idea that he was a natural center. Unfortunately for the player, the team already had a surplus of quality centers in their lineup. This surplus forced Seguin to play the wing in order to earn ice time, at least initially.
After shifting to the wing, Seguin meshed well with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron, giving Boston one of the best second lines in the league. In his sophomore season (his first full season with Bergeron and Marchand), Seguin led the team in goals and points, while becoming a critical component of Boston’s power play.
His third season in the NHL showed a bit of regression. His points per game totals dropped in what was a lockout-shortened season, with the biggest disappointment being his single goal across 22 playoff games as the Bruins went to the Stanley Cup Final. His struggles were so profound that he was dropped to the third line as the postseason wore on, eventually playing a far less significant role than the team had hoped when they signed him to his six-year deal.
Hamilton, on the other hand, was drafted by one of the top defensive teams in the NHL to be their future top-pairing, two-way defenseman. After the draft, he returned to Niagara for one more season of hockey in the OHL, before joining the Boston Bruins in the lockout-shortened campaign of 2012-13.
The team and coaching staff were cautious (perhaps overly so) with Hamilton at first, limiting his minutes to prevent exposing any of his defensive shortcomings, while still allowing him to gain valuable NHL experience. He ended up averaging just over 17 minutes per game, slowly earning more responsibility throughout the year.
Over the course of the next two seasons, Hamilton developed into a top-pairing defenseman, playing aside Boston’s captain, Zdeno Chara. He looked like a franchise cornerstone that showed signs of progress in each of his three seasons. Offensively, he put up 42 points this year, surpassing his combined totals for his rookie and sophomore seasons (41). Defensively, much like the rest of the team, he struggled with consistency, contributing to the Bruins missing the playoffs.
While he undoubtedly had some defensive bumps in the road, his overall development suggested that he was a piece that the organization would look to build around going forward. He was already playing a top-pairing role at the age of 21, and with Chara nearing the end of his career, Hamilton seemed like the natural successor.
The trade of Seguin was an interesting one. Ultimately, it brought back two top-six (or at worst, top-nine) forwards to fill the hole left by Seguin and the departing Jaromir Jagr. In addition to Loui Eriksson and Reilly Smith, the Bruins landed prospects Joe Morrow and Matt Fraser.
It signaled that the Bruins were ready to move on from Seguin, but had every intention of competing for the Stanley Cup again the following season. Beyond that, they were looking to have pieces that could contribute in the not-too-distant future, as evidenced by the inclusion of Fraser and Morrow.
In terms of cap space, Eriksson and Smith fit on the roster for less money than Seguin was making, while both playing a decent number of minutes alongside Bergeron and Marchand on Boston’s second line.
People might not have loved the idea of trading a young star like Seguin, but it was at least clear that the team was not looking to rebuild. To reinforce this idea, the team went out and signed veteran winger, and future Hall of Famer, Jarome Iginla just a day after trading Seguin to Dallas.
Hamilton’s situation, again, was very different. The team traded Hamilton and his contract demands for three draft picks, all within the top 52 selections in what was hailed to be one of the deepest draft classes in recent memory. The highest of those selections was No. 15 overall, which the Bruins used to draft winger Zach Senyshyn. They used the second pick (No. 45) to nab center Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, a BU commit, and used the third pick (No. 52) to get defenseman Jeremy Lauzon.
While at least one, if not all three, of the draft picks will likely contribute at the NHL level in the future, it does not appear likely that any of the group will fight for a spot this season. The willingness to move Hamilton for pieces for the future strongly suggests the team is at least willing to consider the idea of rebuilding.
The follow-up move of trading Milan Lucic, the team’s top left winger, did not change anyone’s mind. The team netted goalie Martin Jones and defense prospect Colin Miller, along with the No. 13 overall pick in this year’s draft. They also used that selection, drafting defenseman Jakub Zboril, marking the team’s top pick. While Zboril is likely a year or more away from making it to the NHL, Jones and, to a lesser degree, Miller will contribute for Boston this season.
The combination of these two moves gave every indication that the team was prepared to endure a wealth of growing pains in the 2015-16 season, with the hope that it would set them up for long-term success.
The Hamilton trade is not the Seguin trade all over again. There are similarities between the two players, but just about everything about the trades themselves was different.
Is the plan to rebuild after the trade of Hamilton? Can the Bruins find a way to retool on the fly? Let me know what you think in the comments below or on Twitter.