It’s now well-publicized that Travis Hamonic has formally requested a trade from the New York Islanders to any Western Canadian team, with the possibility of a few other Western Conference cities in the mix. Hamonic is, at worst, a 3rd defenseman on most good teams in the league, and for many teams would step right into their top pairing and be an improvement.
Unfortunately for the Islanders, as good as Hamonic is they’ve lost quite a bit of leverage in this situation. While it’s not completely unheard of for a player to tell a team his preferred destinations, it’s not common for a trade demand to include a small list of teams. Hamonic has personal reasons for wanting to be in Western Canada, and they’re understandable, but from the Islanders’ standpoint they need to make sure they maximize the value they get in return. Garth Snow has apparently stated he’s not interested in draft picks or prospects, he wants an NHL-ready guy.
Which brings us to the perfect trading partner, the Winnipeg Jets.
Being from St. Malo, Manitoba, Hamonic’s preferred landing spot is almost certainly Winnipeg. He’d be closest to his family and play on a team that really isn’t that far off from the playoffs.
For Winnipeg, there has to be concern about Dustin Byfuglien. Byfuglien is a top defenseman, and one whose contract is up at the end of the year. Without an extension in place, it seems more likely than not that the Byfuglien is going to test the waters of free agency and at least see what’s out there. Hamonic isn’t quite Byfuglien, but he’s also a top defenseman on a very cap-friendly contract who wants to be in Winnipeg. When the Jets came back, one of the big questions surrounding the team was whether or not they’d be able to attract players. Hamonic could be a guy that helps change that culture.
With Hamonic and Zidlicky off the the books for next year, there’s some space for the Islanders to re-sign Byfuglien. Those two eat up a little more than $5mil, and Byfuglien’s current contract has him earning $5.2mil this season. At 33 years old, it’s reasonable to assume Byfuglien is looking to get one last good contract as he enters the latter stage of his career, but I doubt his asking price is far off from his current contract.
What Byfuglien brings to the table can’t be overlooked. A hulking, physical two-way defenseman with multiple 50-point seasons under his belt doesn’t become available very often. Byfuglien brings another element of nastiness to a team that clearly prides itself on its physical play, and would fit right into what Capuano wants to do with this team. Plus, he’s another guy in the locker room with a ring. This team has playoff and championship aspirations, and Byfuglien is another player who has been there.
Plus, nobody wants to play against him.
— gary lawless (@garylawless) November 19, 2015
The question here is how highly do the Jets value a pending unrestricted free agent Byfuglien right now. If the season ended today, the Jets are the 9th seed in the Western Conference, but they’re clearly not far out of it. Hamonic is, at least in my opinion, not that far behind Byfuglien. Plus he’s younger and on a friendly contract. However, the Jets are going to do everything in their power to make sure the Islanders feel like they need to sweeten the deal a bit if they want to get a top-pairing defenseman in return. If this trade were to go down, there would definitely be some extra moving parts involved.
Winnipeg fans may not love the idea of losing Byfuglien, but I think having a hometown boy who likely grew up going to Jets games would be an easy sell for management there. For Brooklyn, Byfuglien is a recognizable American star that not only helps the team on the ice but could help the brand as a whole. To me, this is a no-brainer.
Bantam, Midget, Junior, Pro hockey scout at International Scouting Services. Hofstra University alum.