The Carolina Hurricanes better have their checkbook ready.
To which I have a simple reply: Duh.
Since arriving in Raleigh in 2018, Hamilton has been among the best two-way players – let alone defensemen – in the entire NHL – averaging 0.62 points per game in a Hurricanes jersey. Had he been able to play a full 82 game season, Hamilton was on pace for a 70 point season and would have been an all but certain Norris Trophy finalist if not the award’s outright winner.
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So yeah, I’d assume the Hurricanes, who finished fourth in Metropolitan Division last season, would clearly like to have the 27-year-old back for a very, very long time. But in a salary-capped sport, it’s not really a question of whether the Hurricanes would like to have Hamilton back, but how much they will have to pay to lock up the restricted free agent.
That, my friends, is the eight-figure question.
To get the obvious out of the way right from the jump, regardless of length, it’s pretty safe to assume Hamilton’s next contract is going to be worth a whole lot more than $5.75 million annually. When Hamilton signed that deal in June of 2015 – worth a total of $34.5 million over six years – he was a 21-year-old, third-year player who was just traded to the Calgary Flames from the Boston Bruins after a solid 42 point campaign.
Now, Hamilton is the seventh-best defenseman in the league according to Gulitti’s employer’s preseason list, and will all but surely earn a deal in that range if the Hurricanes want to avoid allowing him to hit the open market next summer.
Alright, noted. Hamilton is about to get paid and paid a lot, but how much and over how long?
Well, according to the Carolina Hurricanes’ general manager Don Waddell, it sounds like the team may not be all that interested in signing any player to an ultra-long deal, especially with COVID-19 stagnating the cap’s growth over the next two seasons, telling reporters, “You’ve got a flat cap for the next two years, we know that,” Waddell said. “We also know that the market’s changed. I’m not saying we’re not going to do a long-term deal, but the long-term deals, if you look at free agency, you’ve only got a few guys that got more than three years in the whole market. … So I think the market has changed, and it should change because of the situation we’re all in.”
Hmmm… interesting. While I would argue Hamilton is one of the rare players who does deserve a long-term deal of over three years, if, as a general rule, teams are avoiding committing that long to a player with the future still up in the air, who am I to argue?
So, assuming the Hurricanes want to sign Hamilton for no more than three years at around the seventh highest-paid mark in average annual salary, we’re looking at a deal in the ballpark of $8 million AAV according to our friends over at spotrac; the same AAV as players like Thomas Chabot, Brent Burns, John Carlson, and Jacob Trouba. While all four of those players are signed to deals stretched over seven-eight years, under the presumption that an AAV of $8 million may look like a bargain in 2027, the Hurricanes’ desire to avoid committing long-term money could give Hamilton some added leverage to earn a nice pay bump going into his ninth professional season.
Is a deal worth $24 million over three years a lot? Sure, but hey, with Dougie Hamilton’s partner in crime – and NHL.com’s 17th ranked defenseman – Jaccob Slavin locked in on a very team-friendly seven-year deal worth $37.1 million overall through the 2023-2024 season, the Carolina Hurricanes can certainly afford to commit roughly a third of their 2021-22 salary cap on retaining arguably their best overall two-way player for the next few years – no offense to Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen.