If the Arizona Coyotes had managed to successfully trade for Dougie Hamilton this summer, they could plausibly boast the most fearsome top defensive pairing in the NHL.
Hamilton's availability seems to be the exception that proves the rule: young two-way defensemen almost never move. And for the Coyotes' desire to find a right-handed shot to play next to Oliver Ekman-Larsson, that's a problem.
Acquiring Hamilton would have been the coup of coups for Don Maloney. A 22 year old defenseman entering the prime of his career, Hamilton and Ekman-Larsson would have played together for at least four seasons (barring trades, of course). Theoretically such a pairing would align quite nicely with the development trajectory of Arizona's young stars up front.
And that's what makes the swing and miss so frustrating. Every alluring replacement for Hamilton is also highly unrealistic. Ryan Ellis of Nashville has an absurdly low $2.5 million cap hit through the next four years, and is only 24. The Predators could use some talent on offense, but they don't need it that badly.
Zach Bogosian and James Wisniewski are unavailable by virtue of being traded within the last season. Justin Faulk is a bright star on an otherwise dull Carolina roster. The Lightning are likely in no hurry to offload any of their studs on defense after coming so close to the Stanley Cup last year. The list goes on and on.
So that leaves Arizona with a couple of choices. Option one: trade assets for a pending UFA in the hopes that he will sign with Arizona in the future. Dustin Byfuglien seems like a prime trade candidate, and if his HERO chart is any indication, could actually hang with OEL:
But Byfuglien is already 30 years old, and just came off of a contract that paid him $6 million in salary in the 2015-16 season. Is he the kind of guy Don Maloney is going to give big money and term to?
Option two would be to trade for a defenseman that is cheaper, but hasn't played the kind of situations that would be expected if they played with Oliver Ekman-Larsson. But is the loss of offensive prospects worth the gamble? And is whomever the Coyotes acquire that much better than Michael Stone, Connor Murphy, or Zbynek Michalek?
Not landing Dougie Hamilton is a big setback for the Arizona Coyotes. Defensemen of his stature don't go on the block very often. How they fill the hole is a big question mark for the Coyotes moving forward.
- I have zero doubt in my mind that Don Maloney would have been able to at least match the contract Calgary gave Hamilton (six years at $5.75 million AAV). I think Hamilton can be a better two-way defenseman than Keith Yandle, and Yandle was making $5.25 million AAV with Arizona before they dealt him to New York.
- So who is left besides Byfuglien that might be worth taking a risk on? Cody Franson is somehow still available on the free agent market. That might not be a bad stopgap signing for now, and perhaps someone like Faulk becomes available near the Trade Deadline.
- We are getting closer to the time where veteran players start getting PTO offers from teams looking to push their training camp rosters a bit.
- One guy who might be a perfect "buy-low" PTO candidate: Rich Peverley. He missed all of 2014-15 after suffering a cardiac event back in March of 2014. He would certainly be motivated to get back on the ice. And if he's not healthy enough, there's no risk to the Coyotes.
- The Coyotes could also extend PTOs to former Desert Dogs Scottie Upshall and Lee Stempniak. Upshall had a lackluster season in Florida, but Stempniak put up six goals and four assists in 18 games for Winnipeg after being traded there at the Deadline.
- There are two goals for PTOs: find someone underrated who is looking for a bounce-back year, and push the other players into earning roster spots. While Max Domi and Anthony Duclair are almost certainly NHL ready, it wouldn't hurt to have veteran NHLers jockeying for their spots too.
- With training camp about two and a half weeks away, #AskFFH is looking for your questions going into camp.
- One last note, we're also looking for new talent to help us cover the organization next season. So if you've got a question or a knack for writing, we want to hear from you!