The Dan Hamhuis Dilemma

Dan Hamhuis will return to the Vancouver Canucks after the All-Star break, and speculation suggests it could be the last stretch of games he spends as a Canuck.

Hamhuis, a pending unrestricted free agent, is a logical trade chip for the Canucks. He’s 33-years old and coming off of a severe injury. With the Canucks unlikely to make any noise in the playoffs, it makes sense to see what the potential return is on Hamhuis.

Trade chatter would indicate that Hamhuis is gone from Vancouver after the Feb. 29 trade deadline, but is there a scenario where the native of Smithers, B.C. stays with his hometown team?

Many seem to think Hamhuis is gone based on his age, value and contract situation. However, people seem to forget that Hamhuis is still a good hockey player.

Hamhuis has been a rock for Vancouver ever since he signed with the Canucks in 2010. He formed a legitimate shutdown pair with Kevin Bieksa when the Canucks made their escapade to the Stanley Cup Final in 2011. He has always been a solid top-four defender and should continue to be a top-six defender for the next few seasons.

Even this season, he’s given some meaningful contributions to the Canucks’ back end. He leads all defencemen with a 49.2 percent Corsi, and is the only Canucks defenceman with a positive On-ice Corsi. During the Canucks’ last road trip, they gave up 40-plus shots in four straight games without Hamhuis in the lineup. They’ve missed his presence ever since he went down on Dec. 9 against the Rangers.

With the Canucks rebuilding on the fly, they need to keep a veteran presence on the blue line in order to bring along the younger defencemen. Pairing Hamhuis with Ben Hutton is an interesting concept that has not been tested out by head coach Willie Desjardins. Instead, Hamhuis has spent most of the season playing with either Matt Bartkowski or Yannick Weber, both of whom don’t belong in the Canucks’ top six. Hamhuis’ strong defensive presence paired with Hutton’s freewheeling ability is at least worth a shot, and Hutton couldn’t take tips from a better pro than Hamhuis.

Just take a look at the model in Florida right now. They have four young defencemen being mentored by two savvy veterans in Willie Mitchell and Brian Campbell. Having a veteran influence is important if any team wants to bring along their young players.

The Flipside

The Province’s sports writer Jason Botchford said on TSN 1040 last week that Hamhuis is the most important player to the Canucks, because he believes the Canucks could potentially get a first-round pick in return. It waits to be seen if that can happen, but the prospect of that surely has Canucks fans salivating at the mouth.

One point that Botchford nailed, is that the Canucks must trade Hamhuis if there is any doubt of him re-signing with the club. They cannot afford to lose Hamhuis for nothing during free agency. Also worth mentioning that Hamhuis has a no-trade clause, and could possibly stand in the way of a trade.

If Hamhuis wanted to stay a Canuck, surely he and general manager Jim Benning could figure out a deal. Hamhuis is a native of B.C., and is part owner of the WHL’s Prince George Cougars. He reportedly turned down more money to sign with Vancouver in 2010, and there’s nothing to suggest that history won’t repeat itself.

There is the chance that the Canucks could trade Hamhuis at the deadline, and then re-sign him again in the summer. Benning would surely earn a stick tap from Canucks fans if he was able to pull that off.

The Hamhuis dilemma may not be a dilemma for some, mainly those who believe the Canucks should trade him. You might only consider his value on the trade market, but let’s not forget his value to the team.