After suffering a fractured fibula on Jan. 16, Dougie Hamilton underwent surgery and will be out indefinitely. With just about two and a half months remaining in the regular season, it’s safe to say that Hamilton won’t return before the playoffs begin. Should the Carolina Hurricanes look to the trade market to replace him before the deadline?
Realistically, the team won’t be able to replace the Norris Trophy-level production that Hamilton provided before his injury. His 14 goals and 40 points ranked third and fourth on the Hurricanes, respectively. Those 40 points place him in a tie for fourth among all NHL defensemen.
Perhaps more importantly, the 6-foot-6 blueliner registered a ridiculous 58.1 Corsi percentage and 58.7 expected-goals for percentage at 5-on-5 play. Hamilton is a key contributor to both the power play and penalty killing units. He truly was one of the most important pieces to Carolina’s success this season.
While the Hurricanes will likely try replacing Hamilton from within the organization to start, a tight Eastern Conference playoff race may force them to look to the trade market for blue line help. With an extra pick in each of the first, second, and third rounds in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, they can certainly afford to acquire new talent.
Brad Hunt – Minnesota Wild
If the Hurricanes are looking for a super-affordable replacement, they should try to pry Brad Hunt away from the Minnesota Wild. Not only does he carry a near-insignificant $700,000 cap hit, but he’s also under contract for another season; he would easily fit on to the Hurricanes’ payroll and give them some cheap depth for next season.
On top of his team-friendly deal, the 31-year-old is also in the middle of a career season. Hunt has scored 15 points with a career-high seven goals and he’s just three points away from tying his career best of 18 set in 2017-18.
Hunt has been a healthy power play contributor in recent years, scoring at least eight points on the man advantage in each of the last three seasons. While he doesn’t provide any penalty-killing help, Hunt has registered an expected-goals for percentage just under 55 percent.
The 5-foot-9 defenseman has averaged just 15:38 of ice time over the last three seasons, so he wouldn’t exactly step into a top-line role. However, he can be a strong bottom-pair piece that would give the Hurricanes better depth and some more offense from the defensive group.
Zach Bogosian – Buffalo Sabres
If the Hurricanes are looking for a pure rental piece, Zach Bogosian could be a good fit. He’s also readily available, as he requested a trade from the Buffalo Sabres in December.
After averaging nearly 22 minutes per game through his first 11 seasons, Bogosian is skating just 16:49 per game this season. As a result, he has just five points in 18 games since returning from offseason hip surgery. Bogosian’s 45.6 Corsi percentage leaves plenty to be desired, but he’s been shifted all throughout the defensive lineup and hasn’t settled in with any of his teammates. It’s clear a change of scenery is necessary.
The 29-year-old is the opposite of Hunt in the sense that he provides very little on the power play but can join the Hurricanes penalty-killing unit. Bogosian’s cap hit is also much higher at roughly $5.1 million. Still, the Hurricanes could make the money work if Buffalo is willing to retain some salary or by placing Hamilton on the long-term injured reserve to work a bit of magic.
Alec Martinez – Los Angeles Kings
Last week, The Athletic’s Pierre Lebrun eluded to some potential interest the Hurricanes may have in Alec Martinez. Now, with Hamilton’s injury, the likelihood of that has increased tremendously.
It appears that the Kings are open once again to moving a blueliner with term, with veteran Alec Martinez being made available. With a year and a half left on his deal, it guarantees the team that acquires him before the Feb. 24 trade deadline at least two playoff runs with Martinez in the fold.
At a $4-million cap hit and the fact that the left-handed Martinez can play both sides, there’s some obvious appeal, including his championship pedigree.
While it may be too early to identify teams of interest, I do wonder about Carolina. The Hurricanes have internally debated the merits of bringing in a steadying defensive presence. However, such a move would also require that a D-man is moved out to accommodate Martinez.
LeBrun: Kings open to dealing Martinez, Senators staying patient with Pageau and more trade rumblings,’ The Athletic, 01/13/2020
Martinez is a two-time Stanley Cup champion that would immediately bring another experienced, veteran voice to the locker room. The 32-year-old Michigan native has just six points this season but posted five straight 20-point campaigns before the Los Angeles Kings began falling apart.
Martinez is a minute eater, averaging at least 21 minutes of ice time per game in each of the last five seasons. He’s also blocked over 750 shots since the beginning of the 2015-16 campaign. On top of that, Martinez can contribute on the man advantage as well as assist in penalty killing.
His $4 million cap hit is manageable, but he does have another season under contract. The Hurricanes may not want to be tied to another contract on the blue line next season, though it would be some good insurance in case Trevor van Riemsdyk or Joel Edmundson leave this offseason.
Martinez might be the best fit for the Hurricanes, but with the salary cap in mind, Hunt is likely the best choice. The Wild may want to hang on to Hunt for next season, so Carolina would likely have to overpay slightly to convince them to let go. Whoever the Hurricanes acquire will certainly have big shoes to fill in Hamilton’s absence.