Top Hurricanes defenseman reportedly free to speak with other teams ahead of free agency

·3 min read

The offseason intrigue has already begun for the Carolina Hurricanes.

One day after signing veteran, depth defenseman Eric Gelinas, a report has surfaced that the Hurricanes have allowed defenseman Dougie Hamilton to speak with other teams.

According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the Canes have allowed the versatile defenseman to talk to other NHL teams well ahead of the official July 28 opening of free agency.

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Hamilton, who turns 28 on June 17, just completed the final year of a six-year contract he signed with Calgary worth an average cap hit of $5.75 million per season. He was the team’s highest paid defenseman, and third-highest paid player overall behind Sebastian Aho ($8.46 million) and Jordan Staal ($6 million).

The Canes acquired Hamilton in a trade with Calgary in June of 2018. The contract originally had a no-trade clause that would have kicked in later that summer, but the trade allowed Carolina to void that piece of the deal, which they reportedly did.

As an unrestricted free agent, Hamilton is free to pursue any deal across the NHL this offseason, once the league year is officially over. By allowing Hamilton to speak to teams early, Carolina opens the possibility of a sign-and-trade scenario. It also allows Hamilton to explore whether any potential offer from the Canes might indeed be the best he’ll receive.

After a slow start to the 2021 season, Hamilton finished the regular season strong on the scoreboard, posting 10 goals and 42 points in 55 games as the team’s primary offensive defenseman. He also posted five points in 11 playoff games, but was also seen as a defensive liability in some situations, which may mitigate his value.

Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov (86) tries to score against Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic (39) while defenseman Dougie Hamilton (19) looks on during the third period in Game 5 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup second-round playoff series in Raleigh, N.C., Tuesday, June 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov (86) tries to score against Carolina Hurricanes goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic (39) while defenseman Dougie Hamilton (19) looks on during the third period in Game 5 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup second-round playoff series in Raleigh, N.C., Tuesday, June 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Hamilton is one of a handful of free agents with which the Canes will have to deal this offseason. The team doesn’t officially have a goaltender under contract yet for next season. Petr Mrazek and James Reimer are both pending UFAs, and rookie Alex Nedeljkovic is a restricted free agent.

Up front, Brock McGinn and Jordan Martinook are the highest profile unrestricted free agents. Cedric Paquette, Max McCormick and Drew Shore are the team’s other UFA forwards.

Andrei Svechnikov is an RFA this offseason, meaning the Canes have the inside track to resign the high-profile winger regardless of any other offers. The Canes will need to send a qualifying offer to Svechnikov before the start of free agency to maintain his status as an RFA, and they can mutually agree to a deal any time before then.

If Svechnikov doesn’t sign the Canes’ initial offer sheet by the start of free agency, any other team can sign him to an offer sheet, but as an RFA, Carolina would have the right to match it. This is what happened in July of 2019, when Montreal tried to poach Sebastian Aho, forcing the Canes to match their offer.

The NHL Expansion Draft also throws a wrench into the process. The Seattle Kraken have officially begun operating, and are open for business. They will select players in a July 21 NHL Expansion Draft, and the Entry Draft follows just a few days later. Free agency begins this summer on July 28, which is nearly a month later than usual due to the schedule crunch created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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