Calgary Flames defenseman Travis Hamonic is high on TSN’s trade board after refusing any contract talks throughout the 2019-20 season, and the Winnipeg Jets should be trying their best to get him. The 29-year-old St. Malo, Manitoba product is in the final year of his contract that carries an average annual value (AAV) of $3.86 million – if he remains unsigned, Hamonic will be an unrestricted free agent (UFA) on July 1, 2020.
The Jets are in big need of a quality top-four defensemen after Dustin Byfuglien was granted a leave of absence at the beginning of training camp in September. Byfuglien recently underwent ankle surgery and is nowhere close to returning to the Jets’ lineup, if he ever does at all.
This is where things get tricky, the Jets have to keep enough salary cap space for Byfuglien’s cap hit in the case he makes his return to their lineup at some point down the road – they are essentially held hostage at this point and cannot spend that money elsewhere. With that said, the Jets will have no choice but to shed cap space themselves if they want to take on Hamonic’s $3.86 million AAV.
The Jets currently have just over $7 million in cap space and will need every bit of it for a potential Byfuglien return. So how do they work a deal to shed some cap space while also acquiring some in Hamonic?
Potential Trade Pieces
Two names come to mind – Mathieu Perreault and Dmitry Kulikov. Perreault has another year left on his contract beyond this season and earns a $4.125 million AAV. Kulikov is in the final year of his deal and is currently the Jets’ highest-paid defenseman at $4.33 million per season (not including Byfuglien’s $7.6 million AAV).
Now, obviously neither one of those two guys is enough to snag Hamonic away from the Flames but it is a start and a necessity for the deal to happen in the first place because of the salary cap issue. The Jets will have to include prospects and/or draft picks into the equation.
When the Flames acquired Hamonic from the New York Islanders in June 2017 they had to give up their 2018 first and second-round draft picks and a conditional 2019 second-round draft pick. Now, back then, Hamonic had a lot of term left on his contract and was younger, so I do not see the ask being near that high this time around, especially with him being a potential UFA at the end of the season.
Will Calgary Trade Hamonic?
The other issue is the Flames are a good team and one that believes they have a legitimate chance at the Stanley Cup this season. Trading a top defender in Hamonic might not be the best choice for those chances to stay so high. They started the season slowly but are making strides as of late – they currently sit in second place in the Pacific Division with 23 points but have the most games played with 20.
The Flames have a major decision to make going forward and they could potentially wait till the trade deadline to see exactly where they sit in the standings. Having a top-pairing guy like Hamonic leave in free agency while getting nothing in return would be the last thing the Flames want and you cannot like their odds to re-sign him if he hits the open market in July 2020.
The Deal That Will Suit Both Teams
The Flames will likely want a roster player or two in return for Hamonic to keep their potential playoff run hopes strong. I believe the Jets have just the pieces needed to make a deal happen that helps both clubs.
The Jets will need to include Kulikov to shed their side of the salary but to make the deal happen they will also need to include a guy like Tucker Poolman and a draft pick as well (most likely a first or second-rounder) to get the Flames to bite. This gives the Flames two guys who can contribute to their lineup right away and a high draft pick that is most likely something they will want no matter what.
Now you may be asking why Poolman? Hear me out. With Hamonic stepping right into the top-pairing with Morrissey and being a likely candidate to re-sign with his hometown team I think Poolman becomes expendable. The Jets’ right side would now consist of Hamonic, Neal Pionk and Sami Niku (who should be in the Jets’ lineup already) leaving no room for Poolman now and in the future.
This deal would actually give the Jets a little more wiggle room with their salary cap and the Flames would stay just under the salary cap after sending someone back to the American Hockey League due to them making a two-for-one player deal.
Call me crazy but it is a deal the Jets can and should make in my opinion. They need help within their top-four defense group and adding a hometown guy like Hamonic would be huge. Giving up another potential first-round draft pick would hurt but I still like the Jets’ prospect pool (especially on defense with guys like Ville Heinola and Dylan Samberg waiting in the wings).
Hamonic was rumored to want to return home when the trade talks started to swirl in 2017 while he was a member of the Islanders. The Jets should not waste another opportunity to get him this time around – bring the St. Malo boy back home.