The New Jersey Devils have made a splash early in free agency, signing free-agent defenseman Dougie Hamilton to a seven-year, $63 million contract. Hamilton joins the Devils after spending the last three seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes, who he led to the playoffs each year.
He has been one of the league’s best defensemen since coming to Carolina, including a fourth-place finish in Norris Trophy voting this past season. He carries a plus-50 rating over the past two seasons and would have been on pace for at least 60 points in each if they were full 82-game campaigns.
Fit With The Devils
The Devils now have a lot of money tied to the right side of their blue line, but Hamilton adds something special to a team that needs a spark. He is a prime candidate to quarterback the top power-play unit after the team rotated through a few defensemen last season. Youngster Ty Smith could see time with Damon Severson or P.K. Subban on the second unit, but Hamilton’s offensive instincts need to be utilized with the team’s top players. Placing Hamilton at the point with proven scorers like Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier could add a new element to New Jersey it hasn’t had recently.
The arrival of Hamilton will probably bump Severson off the top pair, who was playing with Smith towards the end of last season. It’s hard to imagine Subban on the third pair with his $9 million price tag, but Hamilton and Severson have earned larger roles over Subban based on the last year or two. Training camp could certainly change things, but the former Norris Trophy winner hasn’t looked himself since arriving from Nashville. The emergence of Smith and the acquisitions of Ryan Graves and Jonas Siegenthaler could boost a blue line that already has Severson and Subban. Hamilton adds another element to a Devils team that could be a sleeper in a competitive Metropolitan Division.
New Look Defense
Hamilton joins a Devils defense that will presumably roll out at least three new faces than they started last season with. Bringing him and Graves in makes their defense much more formidable against some strong divisional opponents, as will the selection of Luke Hughes in the draft. Subban is now an option to be moved before next season, and his departure would still leave the right side in good hands with Hamilton, Severson, and perhaps one of Smith and Siegenthaler playing on their weak side.
The issue facing management is the amount of money tied up in their defensemen, particularly on the right side. Subban is owed $9 million this season, and Severson has two more years earning more than $4 million annually. Hamilton will surely earn every dollar he’s due to make in New Jersey, but management will need to address the future of the others on the blue line if they want to build a winner around Hamilton and company.
Covering the New York Islanders and Seattle Kraken for The Hockey Writers. MBA Sports & Entertainment Management Candidate at Hofstra University. Formerly Marketing Intern with the American Flag Football League & Operations Intern for the Long Island Nets, G-League Affiliate of the Brooklyn Nets.