Travis Hamonic Takes Leave of Absence

Travis Hamonic

Any conversation about Travis Hamonic is juggling grenades at this point, but news is news. Hamonic and the Vancouver Canucks have mutually agreed that he will take a leave of absence as of October 18th.

Working Without Travis Hamonic

Hamonic was signed earlier this year with the expectation that he would be paired with star defenceman Quinn Hughes. He played well enough through ridiculously trying times to get a new deal with the club back in July before he reached free agency. So while the team continued through the offseason and into training camp, the expectation remained that he would be there. Other players have been used in his stead and the Canucks seem to have settled on Tucker Poolman running with Hughes.

Poolman has some skill – you can’t get to the NHL without it – but is a bit of a step down from Hamonic. The gulf between the two is substantial – 675 NHL games compared to 120. Hamonic has been a top-pair defender for much of his career, and Poolman has yet to reach that level. On the other hand, age is catching up to the older Hamonic. He’s a physical presence on the ice, and after a decade it shows. It could be that Poolman – not exactly a delicate flower himself – steps into that role.

In an ideal world, the familiarity that Hamonic and Hughes built last season would carry over into this year. Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen. Certainly not early in the season, in any case. So the team needs to plan for his absence, and to some degree has.

But What About…

With no word coming from Hamonic or his agent and otherwise silence from the club, any speculation remains just that – speculation. Obviously, he was one of the few players who opted out of a return to play in 2020, citing family concerns. There is no reason to think that’s any different now. If his reason for staying home is concern about his daughter’s health, that is unquestionable. There isn’t a better reason to avoid getting on the ice.

We know that even if you are vaccinated, you can carry coronavirus, as shown by numerous players testing positive. Blake Wheeler and Nathan MacKinnon are the latest examples. Add players who do not want to get vaccinated or who have lied about being vaccinated, and his absence becomes even more understandable. Why he didn’t tell Benning that he might not play this season is between him and the team. It could be that his circumstances changed, or it could be as simple as he changed his mind. That’s their business.

The Replacements

However, there is a business to run, and the cap restriction is something the Canucks still have to deal with. To that end, Travis Hamonic is now officially off the payroll. The timing is essential, as Brock Boeser looks like he will be coming off the injured reserve list to join the team at some point on this road trip. When his $5.875 million cap hit is added, Vancouver will be far over their limit. How the team juggles the roster remains to be seen.

The pairings that the Canucks have run so far without Travis Hamonic are likely to continue. That’s Hughes with Poolman, Ekman-Larsson and Tyler Myers, and Jack Rathbone with the surprising Kyle Burroughs. There may be a shakeup to get the more physical Luke Schenn into the mix on this trip, but for now, it looks stable.

They are carrying eight defencemen, not counting Hamonic, so reassignment for someone there is likely. By the same token, the number of forwards will go up to 14, so they could ship a forward down to the AHL. Unfortunately, there are only three players on the Canucks who would avoid the waiver wire right now. None of Vasily Podkolzin, Nils Höglander, or Rathbone are going to be sent down.

So whatever comes out of this, there is some juggling for Benning to do. Fortunately, this market provides hand grenades for free.

Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images

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