NHL Free Agency: Nine Reasons Why the Dallas Stars Should Sign Dan Hamhuis
The Stars need someone to take Alex Goligoski's place. If that player does not turn out to be the actual Alex Goligoski, how about a bigger, older, defense-ier version?
One of the most fun things about the summer is Hope. So many players are out there looking to work for a hockey team, and the good ones just might choose your favorite hockey team, which is Very Exciting! Alternatively, your team just might work a trade for a Really Good Player, which is also Very Exciting! Many moves can be posited, and because you do not have the daily barometer of hockey games to distract you, these trades and signings consume your hockey thoughts until September finally rolls around.
After three straight offseasons marked by the acquisitions of some truly great forwards, Dallas now looks to cast its gaze upon the blue line. Barring a late re-signing, Dallas will only be bringing back half of their six playoff defensemen, and that means job opportunities. Here is what the current depth chart looks like, in case you have not read anything about the Stars in the last six months:
John Klingberg! Aw, he needs a buddy, though. Hey, what is the title of this post, again?
Johnny Oduya and Stephen Johns! (They were actually used more like a third pair in the playoffs, though.)
Patrik Nemeth, Jamie Oleksiak and Esa Lindell would all slot here, to start. Dallas has given no indication that they want to explore the potential of Nemeth or Lindell on the top pairing quite yet, so these folks (or whichever of them are still here in October) will likely be fighting amongst themselves for time on the lower pairing(s) unless the specter of a Proven Veteran returns to the bottom four to rip the ice time from their relatively young hands. If that were to happen in the form of Jordie Benn or someone else, and if last year is any indication, that would mean Nemeth and Oleksiak spell-checking the AAC menus more often than not. Of course, if you think Jordie Benn would be a better player than two of those three younger folks, then you are probably happy to consider such a proposition. If you do not think that would be the case, then you will likely be asking for the names and addresses of all the folks in the third group so you can go hunt them down after the fact Chad-on-the-Bachelorette style.
The Stars could rotate the three younger defensemen on the bottom pairing for a while, occasionally mixing things up as the inevitable bumps and bruises
and freak accidents happen. But the yawning chasm on this oft-maligned (rightly or wrongly) blue line is that of another top-line defender, also known as the Alex Goligoski Seat of Heavy Expectations. And, barring a ridiculous Jim Nill trade—haha, as if that could ever happen again, he said for the third summer in a row—the best option for that spot might just be Dan Hamhuis. It has taken a very long time for me to get to the point of this whole thing.
Here are some highlights of Dan Hamhuis. Eye Test: commence!
You may not be convinced about Hamhuis yet. That would make sense, since I have not explained why he would be a good fit. I am going to try to make that sense, and I am going to do so in a cogent, easy-to-follow list of Nine Reasons Why the Stars Should Sign Free Agent Defenseman Dan Hamhuis. (Yep, that's right: nine reasons! Nine of ‘em! Heck, that big ol' number might have convinced you right there! If so, please stop reading this and head to the comments to talk about goalie trades. Maybe Tampa will decide to trade Vasilevskiy today because the KHL, I dunno, just saying.)
1. Dan is left-handed
The Stars really do not need more grit and snarl on the back end in order to be elite, but they do need another sinister defenseman who can play next to Klingberg. Hamhuis is a southpaw, and I believe he has been so for his entire life. This means he has literally decades of experience playing hockey left-handed, and that will come in handy next to the Stars' top defenseman, who happens to be a righty. Jim Nill has preached that sort of handedness balance, and while I'm not going to demand it at the expense of icing the best players, it does make sense, when shopping, to pursue the best fit first.
2. Dan is a Proven Veteran
Mr. Hamhuis has been around for a while. He has played over 500 games at the NHL level, and that means Leadership. For all the optimism about Lindell, and for all the potential Swedish Chemistry Nemeth and Klingberg could have someday, Dan Hamhuis gives you another solid WYSIWYG option atop your defense depth chart. The whole idea of buying a free agent is that you know precisely what you are going to get, and what Hamhuis has continually brought in his career is solid defending. Also, he was an alternate captain in Vancouver, so that absolutely proves that he is a leader, if I know anything about how those Velcro letter things work.
Also, Hamhuis won a gold medal with the Canadian Olympic team in 2014. Can Jamie Benn summon Hamhuis to Dallas by placing his palm on that same medal? A real captain would find out, is all I'm saying.
3. Dan should be Relatively Affordable
Daniel Hamhuis is coming off a six-year/$27 million deal with Vancouver. $4.5 million a year is pretty all right value for a top-pair defenseman in his late 20s to early 30s, and that is what Vancouver got. However, with Hamhuis turning 34 in December, you're likely looking at something not unlike Johnny Oduya's contract (though the AAV will probably be a bit higher). Hamhuis doesn't rack up the points, but I'd still expect him to get something like $9 or $10 million/2 years at the least. Teams like Edmonton might offer him more money, but if you were given the chance to play in Not Vancouver, would you enjoy heading to the team that finished atop the Western Conference last year, or would you go to Edmonton? Never go to Edmonton.
Anyway, such a deal would give the Stars a minutes-muncher for a shorter term than Goligoski will probably demand (and deserve). With the burgeoning talent on Dallas's blue line, options will be nice to have in the next couple of years.
4. Dan plays a lot of Minutes
Did you know that Dan Hamhuis has averaged over 21 minutes of ice time every single season he has played hockey? Yes, that includes his rookie year (in which he garnered some tepid Calder buzz) in Nashville. Today's Dan Hamhuis is not the 26-year-old Dan Hamhuis anymore, but when he isn't getting his jaw shattered and repaired, Dan has been able to answer the bell. If they were to sign Dan, the Stars would be able to answer a whole host of questions about their blue without putting any kids in over their heads with big minutes early in their careers. And if one of the kid steps up and demands more minutes, suddenly the Stars can do what Vancouver did to start last season, and enjoy the luxury of moving an older Hamhuis onto the second pairing (and Oduya down to the third).
And, to be clear, that is how Hamhuis should be viewed: a stopgap player who can hold down the fort with big minutes until the Stars swing a trade for that Big Fish Defenseman. If you want to play Lindell or Nemeth with Klingberg on occasion, then Hamhuis can reliably slot elsewhere while bringing along another young defender. Is he the Patrick Eaves of defensemen, able to play top line minutes as well as supplement the depth when a better option is available? Sure, I guess. I mean, that's a weird comparison, but whatever floats your boat.
5. Dan plays on the Penalty Kill a lot
I get the sense that some Stars fans were not thrilled with the amount of PK time Alex Goligoski had to absorb over the past couple of years. While that was as much a virtue of need (after Demers and Oduya, the Stars really didn't have any other good, experienced options) as anything, signing Dan Hamhuis offers them the chance to ice an extremely seasoned penalty killer whose weight starts with a 2 and whose height starts with a 6. No matter how much stock you put into Size on the Kill, it's hard to turn down such an option when it offers itself up for nothing but American Money Dollars.
6. Dan starts in the defensive zone a bunch, and he survives
Dan hasn't required much sheltering in his career, and even last year, he tended to start a bit more of his shifts in his own zone, and he successfully drove play the other direction. That is good, as "easier" minutes are best dispersed among the bottom four. Giving Hamhuis some of the "tougher" minutes (to which he accustomed) allows Lindell (for example) the opportunity to start closer to the opponent's net. It also means the Stars can continue to bring Stephen Johns along slowly, too.
7. Dan makes his teammates better
I won't embed the chart, but you'd best take a look at just how much better Dan's buddies tend to play with him than they do without him (and remember, we are speaking in relative terms, since this is Vancouver, and they are a bad team). The big upside here, aside from better players being upside embodied, is that Hamhuis is a steady sort of defensemen who just does the right things consistently enough to benefit his team. This is a different version of Alex Goligoski, who, while also quite good, tended to make things more exciting in both directions. If you are looking for "one o' them defenders what keeps things nice an' manageable," then Hamhuis just might be the NHL defenseman for you.
8. Dan has been good on a very bad team
Since the 2013-14 season, Dan Hamhuis has been a solidly above-average defender on his team. Even last year, Dan was just about the best defender at driving play relative to his teammates. That's not to say that an over-30 defender is better than Edler or Tanev, who are great (and probably not available to Dallas, thanks to Vancouver bitterness), but it's an impressive feat nonetheless. Evaluating defensemen across the league is a tough business, but Hamhuis has done a lot of things well in Vancouver that the Stars seem to need done in Dallas.
9. Signing Dan would make Vancouver look even more foolish for their trade deadline shenanigans
This is the most important reason by far: Sticking it to Vancouver. Reading between the lines from Mike Heika and other reports, the Canucks appear to have jacked up their asking price from Dallas after the Stars thought they had agreed on a package similar to (or better than) what landed Kris Russell. The result of Vancouver's shrewd negotiating? Zero future assets for a pending UFA who was willing to be traded (and may even have come back to Vancouver in the summer). In a cap league, smart teams know that you need to trade depreciating assets for maturing ones, but Vancouver's management and/or ownership may have nixed a deal out of spite towards Tom Gaglardi, hurting their club's future for the sake of hampering Dallas's present.
For Dallas to wind up with the B.C.-born Hamhuis after all that? Well, that would be sweet indeed. Jim Nill is, by all accounts, one of the nicest folks you'll ever meet, but no one would fault him for a friendly poke in Vancouver's ribs this summer—especially if that poke ends up making Dallas better as a result.
[A Free Bonus Reason]. Hamhuis wore #2 in Vancouver
Who better to inhabit the sweater of the mellifluously named Jyrki Jokipakka than someone who could feasibly go by "Dan Ham," I ask you? This reason was free, so you can't complain about it.