The Carolina Hurricanes would like to re-sign unrestricted free-agent defenseman Dougie Hamilton. But Hamilton and his reps believe the market will produce a contract offer richer than what the Hurricanes want to spend on the talented 28-year-old.
In an unorthodox move, the Hurricanes gave Hamilton their blessing to find out if that opportunity exists, well over a month before the start of free agency.
"We've had discussions with Dougie and his representation. There's a difference of opinion right now. So we can either wait until July 28 and then if we're unable to sign him, he can walk away for free. So maybe if he finds out that there is something out there that makes sense, we can trade him and pick up an asset. Or we still have the opportunity to sign him," said Carolina GM Don Waddell this week.
Hamilton will have his suitors, to be sure. He was eighth in scoring among defensemen this season, with 42 points in 55 games. He's long been an analytics darling, pushing play and helping the Hurricanes dominate in puck possession. Since 2018-19, Hamilton has 52.3 expected goals scored above average, second among all defensemen.
"The door is wide open here. We love Dougie. He's been good for this franchise. We're certainly all hoping that he comes back, but we didn't want to wait until July 28. So we got a head start on it," said Waddell.
If Hamilton finds the contract he's looking for now, here's how it could play out:
The Hurricanes sign him to an eight-year contract extension, as NHL free-agent rules say that only his current team can do eight instead of seven (one more team can do this, which we'll get to in a bit)
They trade Hamilton to the team that's willing to pay him what he wants over an eight-year period, in exchange for an asset, after having added that eighth year on the deal.
Hamilton gets his deal. Team X gets Hamilton. The Hurricanes get a little something for the effort.
Evolving Hockey projects that Hamilton's next contract is likely seven years with an average annual value of $8.476 million. Last season's free-agent prize defenseman Alex Pietrangelo signed for seven years and $8.8 million annually with the Vegas Golden Knights, for comparison's sake.
But Hamilton isn't the only top-tier, right-side defenseman potentially available. Columbus Blue Jackets star Seth Jones has one year left on his contract, and has declared that he'll test free agency after next season, fueling speculation that he could be traded this offseason. That said, Jones will probably generate more in a trade given the year left on his contract; Hamilton, if it's not a sign-and-trade, might not.
Where might Dougie Hamilton be skating next season? Here are 11 possible destinations worth considering: