According to Pierre LeBrun of ESPN and TSN, Edmonton Oilers General Manager Peter Chiarelli is pondering an offer sheet to defenseman Dougie Hamilton of the Boston Bruins, in one of his recent articles.
“It’s believed that Edmonton Oilers general manager (and former Bruins GM) Peter Chiarelli is in fact tossing around the idea internally. How much fun would that be? But seriously, the Oilers are in need of help on the blue line so it would make sense. Thing is, I doubt they’re the only team thinking of doing it.”
As LeBrun points out, Chiarelli is coming from the Bruins organization to the Oilers one and if anyone knows Hamilton best, it’s the general manager that drafted him. At 21, Hamilton has three seasons under his belt and a total of 178 games. Last season, he put up career numbers across the board in games played (72), goals (10), assists (32), points (42) and penalty minutes (41). The 2011 9th overall pick has blossomed quickly into a top-4 defenseman and could help the Edmonton Oilers significantly. The question is, should they make an offer sheet?
Boston Bruins Cap
The Bruins have eleven forwards, four defensemen and one goaltender under contract for next season, and they’ll either need to fill some depth roles either via free agency or look towards their depth pool as a cheaper option. The problem is, the Bruins currently have just over $4 million to spend and a few restricted free agents to consider. A likely candidate for the back-up goaltending spot is 21-year-old Malcolm Subban, after Niklas Svedberg left to the KHL after receiving a minimal amount of starts behind Tuukka Rask. Under contract for two more seasons before becoming a restricted free agent, Subban is a cheap alternative to paying more money for one that hits the market on July 1st.
On the blue-line, the Bruins have the likes of Joe Morrow and Zach Trotman, whom both saw time with the Bruins club last season after the injury bug hit and took down the likes of Zdeno Chara and Kevan Miller. Morrow was sent back to the AHL, as was Trotman but when Hamilton was sidelined indefinitely, it was Trotman that got called up over Morrow. One or both of these prospects would help fill out the defensive holes on the team and earn both of them some valuable experience behind the guidance of Chara and Dennis Seidenberg.
Up front, the Bruins could give a chance to youngsters like Seth Griffith and Alex Khoklachev and allow them to blossom in the big league. Griffith got off to a great start to the season but turned cold and was later returned to Providence. He still put up 10 points in 30 games and didn’t look out of place. Khoklachev got his cup of coffee but his lack of defensive-mindedness is something Head Coach Claude Julien is not crazy about. Then there’s Ryan Spooner, who played himself into a decent role with the Bruins, but he’s also RFA.
This still leaves the Bruins in a pickle. Dougie Hamilton will be expecting quite the raise and many teams are hovering over them like vultures. It’s known that the Bruins are just about up against the cap and a significant offer sheet with big numbers could make it difficult for Boston to match, unless they are able to around a contract or two to make room.
What Dougie Hamilton has to offer
Standing at 6’5, and over 200 pounds, Hamilton is a big kid that can use his frame well and is an excellent puck-moving defenseman. His progression can be chalked up to a tight supportive group consisting of Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg and Patrice Bergeron, who all would have done a spectacular job aiding any of the Oilers young blue-liners, like Oscar Klefbom or Justin Schultz.
A right-handed defenseman, Hamilton ranked 24th overall last season in terms of even strength scoring. Scoring 27 points at even strength and just 15 on the powerpay. Hamilton did play on a team with some young players and veterans that could put the puck into the net, but the Oilers have a very skilled forwards group and Hamilton on the blue line during a powerplay would be a monumental upgrade. Hamilton would easily slot in on the Oilers top pairing, considering the team has been running without a number one and two defenseman for quite some time now.
Hamilton averaged 21:20 of ice time last season, with 17:40 of that being at even strength. Hamilton’s stable presence was also utilized on both the powerplay and penalty kill, making him versatile at all aspects of the game. At his level of game at this point in his career, the Oilers could throw north of $6 to $8 million at Hamilton, a number in which the Bruins would have to perform some miracles to make room in order to be able to match it.
The Offer Sheet Compensation
$Less than 1,205,377: Nothing
$1,205,377 – $1,826,328: Third-round pick
$1,826,328 – $3,652,659: Second-round pick
$3,652,659 – $5,478,986: First and third-round picks
$5,478,986 – $7,305,316: First, second and third-round picks
$7,305,316 – $9,131,645: Two firsts, a second and third-round picks
$9,131,645 or greater: Four first-round picks
At the $6 million mark, the Oilers would be forfeiting their 2016 first, second and third round picks. If they get a little crazy and blast Hamilton with a shirt canon filled with $8 million, they’ll be handing that and their 2017 first-round pick as well. Having picked first overall four times in the last six years, not to mention a relatively high pick for that much time and longer, the Oilers would be banking on Hamilton’s acquisition, among a few others, as a big enough improvement to move out of the league’s basement.
The Oilers could be setting themselves up for misery
While the Oilers have slightly over $15 million to spend on the cap this off-season, their needs go beyond just one defenseman. They need a top pairing, for starters, and some depth as well. Adding a veteran defenseman that can play top pairing minutes would be ideal, not only to upgrade their current core but to help guide the youth coming in. Also, the Oilers currently pay three of their top stars $6 million per season, for multiple seasons. The problem is, what happens when both Leon Draisaitl and Nail Yakupov are ready to sign new contracts once their current deals end after the 2016-17 season? And Connor MacDavid, who will also make big money after a three-year entry level contract. In three years, you’ll be paying big money to three more forwards, while Jordan Eberle will be on the cap for another year, Taylor Hall for two more years and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for three more years. You set yourself up for salary cap hell.
Then there’s Klefbom and Darnell Nurse, two of the Oilers best defensive prospects. Klefbom is heading into the final year of his deal while Nurse has three years left on his current contract and could become a big part of Edmonton’s roster in the next year or two. With Justin Schultz looking for a new deal and the Oilers practically in need of his services at this point (he also happens to be RFA), Edmonton could have very little to spend in the next 2-3 years, possibly not even being able to afford an $8 million Dougie Hamilton, as good as he may be.
At this point, the best route is for the Oilers to grow organically, sign a veteran defenseman or two to help with the upbringing of that youth and watch them grow in the system. Schultz, Klefbom and Nurse can be contributing factors and potential top-4 defenseman, while Andrew Ferrence could be a bottom-pairing guy that is a vocal leader to the youngsters in transition. Or, if Chiarelli wants to play dirty, he can still send Hamilton an offer that the Bruins could match but would put them up against the wall. In turn, he could then inquire about another defenseman under contract, via trade, and strike a deal with his former team.
In closing, an offer sheet to Dougie Hamilton is a nice thought to ponder but realistically, it can and likely will hurt the Edmonton Oilers in the long run. With so much money tied into their young and talented forwards group, more on their way and a young defensive core that will be looking for just as much money, paying $8 million could spell disaster and ultimately put them in the same situation as the current Boston Bruins.
Make smart, lower-costing signings, strike a deal or two and get a starting goaltender on the books. The Oilers still have lots to work on this off-season and perhaps a few more years of struggle, and one player can’t change that overnight.