With Willie Mitchell’s uncertain status within the Canucks organization, it’s imperative the Vancouver Canucks make a play to obtain Dan Hamhuis during Unrestricted Free Agency.
It was an extremely cold January day, back in Quesnel, BC in 2000. A friend of mine from work asked if I wanted to make the trip to Prince George that night to watch the Cougars play the Kamloops Blazers. There was certainly some trepidation on my part; it’s a 250 km round trip to the Prince George Multiplex (since renamed CN Centre), and it was to drop to -30 C overnight. But Kelly had a reliable Toyota, so I agreed, and it would be the first of multiple trips that season to watch the Cougars. Oh, and was it ever worth the trip!
To be frank, the largest draw for myself was watching the newly named captain, Dan Hamhuis play, and by extension, hit. I couldn’t recall watching a more skilled, heavy hitting defenseman ever, even during the odd trip to watch the Canucks play. In the final minutes of that game against the Blazers, Dan Hamhuis hit one of their wingers so hard in the corner boards that they had to fix 2 glass panels. His thunderous, and extremely well calculated hits brought 5000 people to their feet. He would score a goal, add an assist and throw 5 huge hits that game, en route to being the games’ 1st star. Hamhuis would be a large reason for many future trips up north.
The following year, in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft on June 23rd, Dan Hamhuis would be selected in the first round, 12th overall by the Nashville Predators.
Since that time, the Predators have made selecting top tier defenders their trademark, such as Shea Weber, Cody Franson, and Jonathan Blum. But nearly a decade has passed since they drafted Hamhuis, and the financial mechanics of the NHL have changed somewhat. Though they will probably give it a good solid go, resigning Hamhuis could be problematic for the Predators. Patric Hornqvist, the aforementioned Franson, and newly acquired (from Oilers) Denis Grebeshkov are all Restricted Free Agents. While Grebeshkov will probably look for a similar amount of money ($3.150 m), Hornqvist and Franson will need to at least double in salary, if not triple, depending on length of contract.
The teams “big 5″, Martin Erat, David Legwand, Jason Arnott, Jean-Pierre Dumont and Steve Sullivan command $22 m in total. Arnott and Sullivan are entering the final year of their contracts. That number represents their forward corps, give or take, and their blueline poses even more of a challenge with the addition of Grebeshkov. Shea Weber and Ryan Suter alone combine for an $8 m cap hit, even before the raises for Franson and Grebeshkov are factored in. Oh, and Dan Ellis is now an UFA, so they need to account for a backup goaltender to Pekka Rinne.
Ok, so lots of talk about the Predators, and very little about the Canucks. But it’s quite simple, really: Vancouver has needed a strong, hard-hitting defenseman since Mattias Ohlund (man, do I miss him) bolted for Tampa Bay. Don’t get me wrong, I really like the direction Edler has been taking, and Shane O’Brien has helped make up for some of the lost grit. But the 6’1, 205 lbs Smithers, BC native would make such a huge difference in the lineup.
He has played many valuable minutes in Nashville, and the workhorse rarely misses a game. He has averaged at least 25 points a season for nearly 10 years. Most importantly, he would represent an insurance policy for the oft-injured defensive core. With Mitchell and Salo both missing significant stretches due to injury, the writing is on the wall: The $2 m Hamhuis averaged over the last 3 years pales in comparison to what he brings to the table. Give him a raise, offer him a solid 4 or 5 years, and make GM Place an even better place to watch a hockey game in 2010/11 and beyond.