WWYDW: Dougie Hamilton and the Edmonton Oilers

A lot has been written about Dougie Hamilton in recent days and the possibility of an NHL team giving Hamilton an offer sheet, perhaps one so rich that the Boston Bruins have no choice but to let the player go. The team most often posited as being at the other end of that offer sheet? The Edmonton Oilers.

The Boston Globe’s Fluto Shinzawa went into detail on the mechanics of an offer sheet and suggested the Oilers as a strong possibility last Saturday. On Tuesday, ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reported that Edmonton is believed to be discussing the possibility of an offer sheet for Hamilton internally, with the discussion supposedly being pushed by general manager Peter Chiarelli. Also on Tuesday, Comcast Sportsnet’s Joe Haggerty dug into the deal from a Boston perspective, and again flagged the Oilers as the obvious team at the other end of a trade/offer sheet.

At this point, it’s worth having a detailed conversation about what all this means, a conversation I’ve broken into three parts. First, there are some ramifications beyond the specific case here well worth discussing. Second, in this specific case it’s important to get a good idea of exactly what Hamilton’s value is. Finally, having valued Hamilton, we look at what he might cost to acquire and whether it makes sense for the Oilers to part with those assets.

What This Conversation Means

Peter Chiarelli3

Chiarelli is aiming high. The biggest move the Boston Bruins made under Chiarelli’s watch came in his first year on the job. It was the acquisition of Zdeno Chara. Chara became the rock that the Bruins would lean on for the next half decade, the most important piece of a rebuild that took Boston from ground floor to Stanley Cup.

There are any number of ways to upgrade Edmonton’s defence corps, but Hamilton is more attractive than any of the free agents on the market and probably more attractive than anyone realistically available through trade. A cautious general manager might look to upgrade by-committee with multiple, smaller additions, but might also find that because of his caution his team never truly had a championship-calibre blue line. If the Oilers are in fact seriously considering an offer sheet, it’s a sign Chiarelli has no plans to settle.

Chiarelli isn’t afraid to be unconventional. High-end offer sheets don’t happen that often, which is a shame because it’s hard to acquire elite talent and the offer sheet is a legitimate weapon at every NHL team’s disposal.

They often go unused at least in part because a team which uses an offer sheet is running a big risk in at least three ways. First, there’s generally massive draft pick compensation. Second, there’s generally a major contractual overpay involved. Third, an executive that does it will inevitably be less popular at annual G.M. meetings, will be open to reprisals down the line and may even be looking at a barn fight somewhere down the road (as long as nobody tells Gary Bettman).

A high-risk play isn’t intrinsically good. Neither is an unconventional play. But being willing to take risks and flaunt convention when the situation is right is an essential element to being a great general manager. Slavishly adhering to conventional wisdom doesn’t win championships, because everybody knows conventional wisdom.

Scuttling the ships. A significant offer sheet, if made, would put massive pressure on the organization to improve immediately. When Garth Snow dealt away his team’s 2015 first round pick, the price of failure must have been part of his motivation to be so aggressive over the summer, making trades and adding free agents. If he’d failed, he would almost certainly have been fired. Instead, he had the best summer of any G.M. in some time and the Islanders took a massive leap forward as a team.

But these are all secondary to the major issues: How good of a defenceman is Dougie Hamilton? What is he actually worth?

Evaluating the Player

Draft day scouting report, via The Hockey News:

Ask an OHL’er who they’d rather go into a corner with, Dougie Hamilton or Ryan Murphy, and they’ll say they much prefer their chances with [Murphy]. But the physical Hamilton can also put up numbers and does so with a giant, enviable frame. That makes him a very intriguing player for NHL teams.
“I would say he has the potential to be a real high-end, two-way defenceman at the next level,” one scout said. “He has the offensive ability and skill set to contribute and the size, composure and toughness to be a shutdown guy.”

[Hamilton] had a breakout season for the IceDogs and doesn’t rely just on brute strength and punishing hits – he also thinks the game at a high level. Character is also a strong suit and scouts wouldn’t be surprised to see him wearing a letter on his NHL jersey someday.

The one item I’d add to that scouting report is that Hamilton is also a bright guy off the ice. It’s obvious from speaking to him; it’s made even more obvious by an impressive list of scholastic awards picked up during his time in junior.

He’s a 6’5”, 212-pound right-shooting defenceman who put up 42 points at the tender age of 21. His enhanced stats (via War-on-Ice) look awfully good, too; in three years with the Bruins he’s played the second-toughest competition on the team, dramatically outperformed the club average by the shot metrics (keep in mind, this was a good Boston team, so even being average would be impressive) and didn’t get a zone-start push. He ranks No. 8 among full-time NHL defencemen in points/hour at even-strength (min. 2,000 minutes played) over those three seasons, just ahead of Kevin Shattenkirk and Alex Pietrangelo and a hair behind P.K. Subban and Kris Letang. His power play numbers are also excellent.

So, dream come true, right? Haggerty offers a caveat:

But he’s also still young and prone to some pretty rough turnovers, and Chara has done much of the heavy lifting in the defensive zone during their time together. The ice directly in front of the net was an easy place to attain for opponents when Chara was injured, and Hamilton was acting as the last line of defense against the NHL’s best players. He isn’t quite ready to be a No. 1 defenseman in the NHL, and the thinking at this address is that he shouldn’t be paid like one quite yet either.

It’s a reasonable argument; not every young defenceman gets to play with Zdeno Chara. So how do we get a handle on Hamilton’s performance sans the Slovakian powerhouse?

One way to do it might be to compare him to Chara’s partners over the last three years. Chara has played a bit with everyone, and the full list is here, but he’s had two primary helpers: Hamilton and Johnny Boychuk, who was such a massive hit in New York this year. Here are the numbers for the two tandems:

  • Chara and Hamilton, 2012-15: 56.4 Corsi percentage, 51.0 percent zone-start (team Corsi: 53.1%)
  • Chara and Boychuk,2012-15: 57.2 Corsi percentage, 47.0 percent zone-start (team Corsi: 53.1%)

At First glance, Hamilton’s not quite up to Boychuk’s standards. But one needs to remember that we’re starting at Hamilton’s rookie year and capturing a lot of learning curve in these numbers. What happens if we look just at the 10 hours or so they played together at evens this past season?

  • Chara and Hamilton, 2014-15: 57.1 Corsi percentage, 48.5 percent zone-start (team Corsi: 51.7%)

That last number shows Hamilton coming within a hair of Boychuk’s numbers, but on a much weaker team and at the age of 21 doing it while still a half-decade or so short of his prime. Boychuk, of course, excelled playing 21:40 per night in New York and anchoring his own pairing sans Chara and there’s every reason to believe that right now Hamilton is at least a comparable and may perhaps even be a superior player.

Haggerty wonders if Hamilton is really the heir apparent to Zdeno Chara or just a gifted young top-four defenceman. I’d say Chara’s shoes are awfully big ones to fill, but if I’m putting an NHL team together I have no problem at all penciling Hamilton in as my No. 1 defenceman for the next decade or so based on his work so far.

Cost of Acquisition

84-Klefbom-10

There are two obvious approaches to acquiring Dougie Hamilton for the Edmonton Oilers. The first is an offer sheet so rich that the Bruins can’t match; the second is a trade backed by the threat of an offer sheet so rich that the Bruins can’t match.

There are three potential ranges of offer sheet the Oilers might plausibly make; via Elliotte Friedman those ranges look like this:

  • $9.13 million or higher – Four first-round draft picks
  • $7.31 million to $9.13 million – Two first, a second and third-round picks
  • $5.48 million to $7.31 million – First, second and third-round picks

As we considered in the Bruins’ cap hell piece, Boston has $63.7 million committed (per NHLNumbers.com) prior to signing RFA’s Hamilton, Ryan Spooner and Brett Connolly. The team is allowed to go over the salary cap in the summer, so hypothetically the Bruins have the ability to match any Hamilton offer sheet provided they are willing to make cuts elsewhere.

There’s no doubt in my mind that Boston would match any offer up to $7.31 million. The price is high, but not so exorbitant as to be crushing, and the draft pick return simply isn’t enough of a carrot to make losing Hamilton worthwhile.

Moving to the next tier is where things get interesting. At $8.0 million a Hamilton contract would put the Bruins over the cap, forcing massive cuts elsewhere. They’d be looking at two first-round picks, plus the second and third round selections coming back. Given that those picks would be coming from the Oilers, the potential would exist for Boston to reap the kind of windfall that it landed when it dealt Phil Kessel to Toronto for the picks that turned out to be Hamilton and Tyler Seguin. That’s an intriguing combination of carrot and stick, though it still leaves a Bruins team that isn’t far from contending with a massive hole in its roster in the here-and-now.

In the Oilers shoes, I’d look at doing it. The team has all its picks and Hamilton is exactly the right player for Edmonton’s team situation. But I’d only look at doing it if a trade made under the threat of an offer sheet failed first.

The appeals to both clubs are obvious. For Edmonton, making a trade likely means less of an overpay on Hamilton’s contract, and allows the club to substitute some present value for those future draft picks and avoid the odium of making the offer. For Boston, it offers the chance to land some here-and-now help rather than just bringing aboard futures.

Most of what the Oilers have would be worth offering for Hamilton; the real question is what players Edmonton wouldn’t be willing to trade, and it’s an awfully short list. Connor McDavid will not be dealt, obviously. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall are too valuable to move one-for-one, but the right Hamilton+ deal might be fair value, though it’s robbing Peter to pay Paul. Darnell Nurse and Leon Draisaitl may or may not belong on this list; in a lot of ways each has a comparable ceiling but both are less certain. Outside of those five, I don’t know that there’s a player in the system not worth dealing.

That list of potential trade bait includes Oscar Klefbom, as painful as that loss would be. Klefbom and Hamilton are the same age; Hamilton’s further along. Offering Boston a package centered on Klefbom would give the Bruins a good young defenceman for a considerably lower salary than Hamilton. Naturally, Klefbom would not be an opening offer; the Oilers could first wander through the list which includes a pile of draft picks, any of the other prospects in the organization, skaters like Jordan Eberle and Nail Yakupov and Justin Schultz. But if it comes down to Klefbom, I don’t know that Edmonton could say no.

In my view (and from an Edmonton perspective) trade talks should absolutely be investigated, and if they fail an offer sheet in the $8.0 million range seems a reasonable (if risky) decision with a decent chance of landing the player.

But as this is What Would You Do Wednesday, my view is hardly the last word on the subject. What does the comments section make of the possibility, and what price is it willing to pay?

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  • vetinari

    So thinking this through, if you offer sheet and its 2 1sts, a 2nd and a 3rd, and it looks like this;

    2016
    1st – Boston
    2nd – Boston
    3rd – Boston

    2017
    1st – Boston
    2nd – Boston (chiarelli)
    3rd – SJ

    The only thing I would say is the Oilers better keep all of their picks for 2015, and not trade them for players, because to go three years without high picks doesn’t seem very reasonable.. At the very least, invest a lot in European scouting to sign FAs to ELCs and to find late round gems.

  • ubermiguel

    In the history of the salary cap era only 1 offer sheet hasnt been matched. Dustin Penner.

    Compensation was 1st, 2nd, 3rd round picks of 2008. Which turned into Tyler Myers, Justin Schultz, Kirill Petrov.

    I don’t even think Penner is signed in the NHL. Tho dont understand why. He’s a better 1 mil bet than lots.

  • freelancer

    I made a comment, but it’s not there now. Weird.

    In a nutshell, between the compensation for Hamilton, Chiarelli and McLellan, the Oilers would give up their 2016 1, 2, 3 and their 2017 1, 2, 3. If they are going to do that, I’m not sure how you can trade any of the 2015 picks.

    • CMG30

      That’s the beauty of the timing of this whole thing. We have enough picks in this draft, a deep draft, to sustain ourselves even if we miss out on the early rounds for the next couple years.

      As for the compensation picks, well Edmonton will put off paying them as long as possible and hope the NHL comes to its senses. If not then they will demand compensation from whomever eventually hires Nelson/Eakins/Acton/Ramsey etc.

  • CMG30

    Consider:

    Dougie Hamilton looks to be the EXACT GUY that this team needs and circumstances are such that Edmonton may have the leverage to make it happen. Without at least the threat of the offer sheet nobody trades guys like this. Yes, if it came to it, an offer sheet in the range of 8 million along with the picks would hurt, but even if he stayed at the level he is now it wouldn’t be the end of the world, he’s a legit top line D. Petry got an average of 5.5m, I’d pay the extra 2.5m if it meant DH patrolling the blue line for years to come…

    …Or Edmonton could continue with business as usual and we could all go back to complaining about how terrible the D is and toss around stop-gap measures like saddling ourselves long term with overpaid, washed up free agents, gutting the core, complaining about Schultz and arguing about what sucks worse: the D or goaltending.

  • freelancer

    Boston is up against the cap. We have 2 young studs in Nurse and Klefbom, but they need guidance to be shown the ropes. What if, instead of selling the farm for Hamilton, we trade for Chara? I know he’s older, but I’m sure he has 2-3 years of decent hockey left and he would be a phenomenal mentor for our young studs. And hopefully by the time he is finished, Klefbom and Nurse will be ready to take the reigns.

  • Cowbell_Feva

    I feel Dougie Hamilton is a great player. The exact mold of what we need as noted above….however he is not the ONLY player of his ilk and position that is playing in the NHL. He is maybe the only one that could be offer-sheeted, but I feel that the risk/reward of all those picks, plus his compensation being too high is too much risk from the Oilers perspective.

    Seth Jones and Roman Josi from Nashville are 2 players that are elite defensemen, on a team saddled with elite defensemen. They need scoring, and Edmonton could send an offensive player for one of those players. IMHO Hall for Jones would be legitimate starting talks.

    Ryan McDonaugh is an absolute stud, on a team that is having issues with the cap. Brent Seabrook has been mentioned (although I doubt he will be moved).
    Olli Maata from Pittsburgh is underrated. OEL in Arizona would definitely help. Hamonic in NYI is cut from the same cloth…the list goes on.

    My point being, there are other young, stellar defensemen out there, that could be fetched for the right price….I don’t think Hamilton is so much better than ANY of the players listed above, that we should risk losing so many picks and pay him out the wazoo in the process. Especially considering he would be fed to the wolves here in Edmonton.

    I myself, would look to other avenues than the O.S.

  • Is it just me or does it seem like alot of people are willing to pay seabrook max money to get him, but are worried about over paying Hamilton???

    Hamilton is 10 years younger, 2inches bigger and in his 3rd year almost tied Seabrook’s career best year point production wise in 10 less games played.

    I’d rather get Hamilton than seabrook! And i would LOVE seabrook!! Just sayin…

    Seems like people don’t realize how good Hamilton is

  • Aitch

    This entire post and the comments attached just upsets me. It’s bad karma, but that’s only the beginning. People offering up Hall, Eberle, Yakupov, and on and on, for less than equal value. Losing draft picks or Klefbom and, apparently, anyone not named McDavid, for help of the blue line. Yes, we need help, but we need a GM to make smart moves. I’m not going to lie, I often enjoy listening to and reading about trade proposals, but there are so few things in these comments, and the article that make sense to me. We all want this beautifully polished, brand new team to take the ice next season, I get it. But, we are at the tail end of a rebuild, so let’s not start making the same type of moves that got us in this mess in the first place (Penner, and Vanek wouldn’t have been any better). This is a cap era, as well, and with the team Edmonton has, it won’t be long until we are pushing up against it. Sensible trades are the answer, for now. We need to get a look at this core with McDavid in the mix, and another year of development under our main group of players. Yes, the D and G positions must be improved, but lets take advantage of the UFA market, teams up against the cap (not offer sheets) and other scenarios. With the strengths that we have now in the form of forwards, draft picks and stud D prospects, why weaken our advantage, by losing a trade to improve a position, especially now.

    • Cowbell_Feva

      First off….this is not the tail end of a rebuild. The “rebuild” was done completely back ass wards and we are still at the preliminary stages at best. Finishing 3rd last isn’t the tail end. As of today we have the worst Defense and goaltending in the NHL.

      Secondly, outside of an offer sheet (which I don’t think is the right answer for this team at this time) Chia will have to move somebody with talent from the “core” in order to get talent on the blue line. Thus the likes of Hall, Eberle and Yakupov being debated. I feel that too many ON members over value these players. They were drafted high. They have had some success individually, but zero as a team….why not move one or two of them?
      An 18 year old kid isn’t going to solve the Oilers problems by this fall. We, as Oilers fans should know this better than any other fan base in the NHL by now.

  • OILFANMEXICO

    No risk NO reward! How many other huge right handed offensive defenseman are available? Opportunities like this are rare. Chiarelli write up the offer sheet and Hamilton will be our #1 defenseman next season and McDavid and the boys will get that one clean pass out of our zone. Beauty

  • 719

    Who is making the call on draft day ? The scouting group that has basically faired poorly , or the new management group ? Howson and MacGregor seemed most front and center on at least McDavid interview . Nothing basically has changed on roster as yet since new group has been in place . How much faith does new group have in the carryover staff to do a good job at draft ? Will there be any major changes at draft beyond just the draft order we have in place ? I think a lot of people are expecting some major changes and bold moves , but we may be disappointed as new group might be to reluctant to make major moves until well into season .

  • While 8M+the picks is a massive overpay today, it likely won’t look that way in 2 years. D HAM is so exactly what the Oilers need that once he’s here there’s no telling how many wins he could add to the Oil’s record. If the trade fails, then offer sheet him for 8. If those first round picks end up being outside the top 10 I’d say it was a fair deal. If they end up being outside the top 20, then PC will look like a genius. If they end up in the top 10, Boston stands to gain a massive amount from not matching.

  • 719

    One year contract $6 million base salary $3 million signing bonus. Won’t be matched, alot to give up though.

    After you get him, sign him long term as soon as you can (I believe January 2016) at his base salary of $6 million x 8 years (he would have to be qualified at his base salary).

    It would mean the Oilers have no 1st, 2nd or 3rd picks in both the 2016 and 2017 drafts, because of compensation owed to Boston for Chiarelli and San Jose for McLennan. The oilers would have to be getting college free agents, undrafted players and Europeans to refresh the ranks.

  • CMG30

    An offer would actually make some sense if they could do it for the 7mill range. Although I think Boston is prepared to match that.

    It would also make sense only if it were a sure thing that Dougie would perform as well in Edmonton, where no Chara exists, as he did in Boston.
    I sure haven’t seen enough of him play to make that call.

    Essentially you would be trading away next year’s draft picks and would then definitely have to trade away assets (maybe closer to the trade deadline?) to get your first and second rounders back and clear cap space…but that gives you maybe a year or two to do so while your young stars should appreciate even more in value.

    But again, you’d be stuck with a 7 mil defenseman who may or may not be worth that price tag.

    Who’s feeling lucky?!

  • LibrarianMike

    If you offer sheet a guy like this, won’t that open up Edmonton to offer sheets for some of their players down the road? Like wouldn’t someone offer sheet McDavid in a few years?

  • LibrarianMike

    I would offer $7m. The Bruins may match, but if they don’t the price is reasonable and the Oilers don’t completely screw up thier salary cap.

    I wonder though, if the 2016 1st, Yakupov, and Marincin gets it done?

    It’s a steep price, but if it allows the Oilers to sign Hamilton at $6m x 8 years then it’s worth the price.

  • LibrarianMike

    Oilers give Hamilton an offer like many of you want. you same people will be screening like hell that he is not worth it. Aka Horcoff, Penner. Dumb move you have to draft and develop defenceman. There is no easy fix.

  • LibrarianMike

    Oilers give Hamilton an offer like many of you want. you same people will be screening like hell that he is not worth it. Aka Horcoff, Penner. Dumb move you have to draft and develop defenceman. There is no easy fix.