With the CBA now formally ratified, the narrow window for players to officially opt out of returning to play is now open. Flames defenseman Travis Hamonic is the first to do so, as he released a statement through his agency Titan Sports 365 (Twitter link) indicating that he will not be participating for family reasons. His daughter has had a significant battle with a life-threatening respiratory virus in the past while Hamonic has a new baby boy as well so he is erring on the side of caution.
Following the announcement, Flames GM Brad Treliving issued the following statement:
Earlier this evening Travis called me to inform us that he has decided to opt out of the NHL Return to Play Program. Travis explained that due to family considerations, he has made the difficult decision not to participate in the Stanley Cup Qualifier and Playoffs.
While we will miss Travis in our line-up, we understand and respect his decision. Our focus remains on preparation for training camp and our upcoming series in the NHL Qualifying Round.
Hamonic’s absence will be a notable one as, when healthy, he is one of Calgary’s most effective defensive blueliners. He logged more than 21 minutes a night this season including a team-high 3:06 per night on the penalty kill on a unit that was inside the NHL’s top ten. Their trade deadline additions of Derek Forbort and Erik Gustafsson will become that much more important now from a depth perspective, especially with the potential hesitance to bring back Juuso Valimaki.
As for Hamonic, the 29-year-old has now played his final game before being eligible to hit unrestricted free agency in October. Him opting out shouldn’t hurt his market at all as his reputation of being a strong stay-at-home defender is well-known and earned so he should still be among the second tier of rearguards that should garner considerable interest this offseason.