With Rick Nash’s playing future in jeopardy, defenseman Dan Hamhuis is the highest-rated player on our Top 50 UFA list. The veteran has been a stable defender for quite a few years so why is he still on the open market?
Last season, Hamhuis logged over 20 minutes per night for Dallas while chipping in more than usual offensively with 24 points in 80 games, his highest output since 2012-13. While his days of being a top pairing player that can be used in any situation have come and gone, he should still be able to carry a third pairing and move up when injuries strike. That’s still a pretty useful part of any defense corps.
One area that hasn’t fallen off over the years is his penalty killing. He is still someone that can play on a top group and really anchor that unit. Special teams are obviously a big part of the game so finding someone that can impact a penalty kill unit as much as he can at this stage of free agency isn’t something that happens very often.
One element that could be making teams a little wary is the fact that Hamhuis is now 35 which makes a multi-year offer a little bit more of a risk as it would qualify for 35+ status. (This locks in the cap hit even if he is sent to the minors, retires, or is bought out.) It wouldn’t be surprising to see Hamhuis seeking a multi-year commitment giving the year he just had but that doesn’t appear to be something teams are open to, at least for now.
Teams that are rebuilding or have outside chances of making the playoffs aren’t likely to have interest in Hamhuis. He’s best served as a role player on a contender that can move up the lineup from time to time as needed.
Last week, Hamhuis indicated that Dallas wasn’t interested in re-signing him as they were saving up for a big-name acquisition. With John Tavares now gone to Toronto, they could certainly try to circle back to see if they can come to terms on a deal to keep him around. Chicago’s movement this summer suggests they believe they still have one more run left in them and Hamhuis would certainly represent an upgrade on their third pairing. Nashville could also use some insurance beyond their big four and going there would bring his career full circle as they originally drafted him in the first round back in 2001.
Out East, Washington makes a lot of sense to give them another penalty killer that can also help shelter their younger players on the third pairing. The Devils would undoubtedly like to add another top-four player to their back end but if they can’t do so, Hamhuis would still be a decent consolation prize. Toronto’s strength in depth is on the left side but the veteran could still fill a role with them as well but he probably would have to be willing to take a one-year deal for that to become an option.
Before free agency, we projected a two-year, $6MM deal for Hamhuis. For someone capable of playing 20 minutes per game (or close to it), that AAV is a bargain but his age is clearly working against him to some degree. A contract like that is still certainly a possibility but the closer this drags out towards training camp, he may have to settle for a one-year pact instead.
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