Photo Credit: Ed Mulholland/USA TODAY Sports
New York Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic wants to come home.
The 25-year-old first-pairing defender hails from just outside Winnipeg and has requested a trade out of New York, ideally to a franchise in Western Canada, for the purpose of being closer to what is reportedly an ongoing family situation.
Hamonic is a good player and a local kid, but the Jets are flush with right-handed shooting defenseman and Hamonic’s contract, which has a lower cap hit than salary, isn’t ideal for an internal budget team, which the Jets have been since relocating to Winnipeg from Atlanta.
If the club decides to pursue Hamonic it will be a complicated deal, and it may be complicated even further by the status of pending unrestricted free agent Dustin Byfuglien.
During a Headlines segment from the Hockey Night in Canada broadcast on Saturday night, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman suggested that there are people around the league who believe that extension talks with Byfuglien may be holding up Winnipeg’s pursuit of Hamonic.
“The rumour has been Jacob Trouba,” Friedman began. “One of the things that people are kind of wondering here is: are the Jets taking another run at trying to sign Dustin Byfuglien, so they can have all of their ducks in a row before they try to get this trade done?”
You’ll notice that Friedman isn’t reporting anything solid here (if he had, this post would carry a very different headline), and he took pains to qualify that. This is gossip and informed conjecture, which we don’t say as if it’s negative. In fact, we massively appreciate that Friedman is willing to indulge the public with juicy insider tidbits like this. So make sure to be careful when parroting these comments in a public forum like on Twitter or Reddit, lest a reporter of Friedman’s stature become more reluctant to share this sort of insight going forward.
Anyway it’s enormously interesting, particularly since the thought began with a statement about Trouba.
Trouba is a pending restricted free agent, but considering Winnipeg’s budget-team status, the 21-year-old defender’s next contract may be similar in structure and price point to Hamonic’s current deal. We’ve certainly advocated that the Jets should avoid doing a bridge deal with Trouba, and lock him up to a Roman Josi, John Klingberg-style contract.
What’s tough to figure out is why a potential Byfuglien extension would impact the club’s willingness to deal for Hamonic.
Its been reported that the Islanders would want one of Trouba or Tyler Myers in return for Hamonic, and that the Jets are loath to give up either player. Even if Byfuglien walks and the Jets do decide to deal one of Myers or Trouba, that would still leave the club with two right-handed shooting defenseman capable of logging top-four minutes, which is all you really need.
Perhaps it’s just a certainty thing. The Jets could conceivably and understandably want to know precisely what they have on the right side of their defense corps before jumping into a deal that would be the second mega trade of Kevin Cheveldayoff’s tenure.
Or perhaps the Jets are taking one last run at locking up Byfuglien, before potentially including him in a Hamonic trade. Interestingly enough, ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun posed these very questions earlier this week:
My question is this: If you’re Winnipeg, do you even think of dangling pending unrestricted free agent blueliner Dustin Byfuglien, who remains unsigned? Ideally the Jets would rather re-sign Byfuglien, of course, but will they be able to?
And would Byfuglien even be enough for Snow given that the player could walk away July 1?
You’d certainly have to think that Byfuglien, on his own, wouldn’t be enough to net the Jets a player with a long-term, team-friendly deal like the one Hamonic is signed to. If this particular trade is proving difficult to make though, perhaps Byfuglien and a sweetener could get this thing done.
And for the Jets it may make sense, particularly if there’s no deal to be made with Byfuglien. If Byfuglien is going to walk after this season anyway, then turning his expiring deal into a really good first-pairing defender like Hamonic – even if Winnipeg has to add another significant asset to complete this hypothetical deal – isn’t necessarily a bad outcome.