The New Jersey Devils should be seeking every possible, realistic avenue to improve the team’s defense once the 2020 playoffs conclude. Anyone who watched the team even once this year would see the glaring weakness that was (and still technically is) the Devils’ back end. While we as a site have taken a look at a number of ways to fix the defense, today I continue this week’s theme of players the Devils should avoid for one reason or another. Today we focus on current Calgary Flames defender Travis Hamonic.
Hamonic, His Statistics and Some Issues
Known as a defensive defenseman, Travis Hamonic has spent 10 full seasons in the NHL, though it’s hard to call them “full” seasons, as the only campaign where he did not miss any games was during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. Without even getting to his stats, this is my first red flag: Travis already struggles to play a full season, and it gets easier to get hurt as you age.
Looking at his advanced stats on Natural Stat Trick for this season, Hamonic posted a “meh” even strength corsi % of 49.19; certainly the definition of average, and not awful when you look at that number alone. Heck, that even looks pretty good when you compare it to the advanced stats of Devils regulars such as Damon Severson (48.07) and P.K. Subban (47.36) for the season. Travis seems like a marginal upgrade.
The problem arises here once we bring both his career and his teammates’ 2019-20 season into the equation. Hamonic’s CF% this season was his worst by a good margin during his time in Calgary; it’s also in the bottom half of season totals for his career. More worrisome is that some of those totals that fall below this season are from years spent on some pretty bad Islanders teams; he had an excuse for those seasons, while this season in Calgary on a playoff team he doesn’t. As also mentioned, the above Natural Stat Trick link shows how he stacks up against his teammates; he’s firmly fifth on Calgary’s roster. Bottom line is that Hamonic is a bottom pairing defender on a good team.
One final note for this section is that Subban and Severson both fared better than Hamonic on the penalty kill, despite playing for a much worse team. Severson in particular appeared in 19 more contests, and spent a full 15 more minutes killing penalties than Hamonic, yet Damon was on the ice for 18 goals as opposed to Hamonic’s 22. While Subban spent less time on the ice shorthanded, he only was on for 12 goals against and both Devils (Severson SH CF%: 19.74; Subban SH CF%: 23.26) were statistically superior to Hamonic (SH CF%: 12.77) in terms of getting the puck moving out of their zone.
Hamonic, His Contract and Further Issues
Hamonic officially rolled onto the wrong side of 30 for hockey players as of four days ago. As he is an unrestricted free agent that realistically has a decade or less of a career left, he will probably be looking for one last long-term deal with a decent payday. To date, according to CapFriendly, his largest contract was the 7 year, $27 million deal he signed with the Islanders back in 2013; he would only spend 4 of those 7 years in New York before being moved to Calgary. The most important takeaway would be the average annual value of $3,857,143.
Even with a flat cap for the upcoming season, I expect Hamonic to ask for more than that for a couple of reasons. The first is the aforementioned possibility of this being the last big NHL contract that he signs, giving him financial stability for later in life. The second reason here is the position he plays. As you either knew, or probably assumed based on the Devils I was comparing him against, Travis Hamonic is a right side defender; those are always coveted by NHL teams, and Hamonic could use that as leverage for a better deal. The latter reason is also part of why the Devils should steer clear; unless the team wants to spend a combined amount of at least $17 million just on three players that all play the same position, this isn’t going to work.
Devils fans are already frustrated with Subban’s contract and Severson is a polarizing player to some. If you are upset about the former, you’re not going to like what Hamonic brings for the contract he will probably ask for. If you struggle more with the latter, I don’t think you’ll be happy about an older, inferior player to Severson who throws a few more hits.
A Summative Analysis
For someone branded as a “defensive defenseman” nothing about Hamonic’s stats scream that he’s going to continue to be effective at it going forward. His penalty kill stats aren’t good, and his even strength Corsi % declined on what was a decent/good Calgary team this season. His declining CF% as well as his injury history have me concerned that giving him a long term deal would be a mistake, both in terms of on-ice impact and spending time on the ice.
While some of his even strength stats were better than those of comparable players on New Jersey, he was firmly a third pairing player for Calgary; a guy like that on the wrong side of 30 isn’t going to move the needle for the Devils. Even if you want to argue that he’s not declining yet, he’s going to during the course of the contract. Easy pass.
I’d like to hear your thoughts about Travis Hamonic; do you agree that he is a player the Devils should avoid in free agency? Is it simply the position, or the statistics as well? Do you disagree and feel he would be a good fit for Jersey’s Team? If so, why? Leave any and all comments below and thanks as always for reading!