Seth Jones isn’t the answer for Blackhawks, however Dougie Hamilton could possibly be


There’s a No. 1 defenseman out there this summer time with the form of game-changing talents the Blackhawks desperately want.

It’s Dougie Hamilton, the Hurricanes star staring down unrestricted free company.

It’s not Seth Jones, the Blue Jackets star all of the sudden changing into one of many NHL offseason’s largest commerce chips.

However the Hawks have already been tied to Jones, who reportedly lately knowledgeable Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen he received’t re-sign when his contract expires subsequent summer time. The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline named the Hawks in addition to the Kings and Canadiens as “main gamers” in early Jones commerce talks in Columbus. The Oilers and Maple Leafs are additionally anticipated to poke round.

On the floor, Jones makes good sense for Hawks basic supervisor Stan Bowman. Jones’ agent is Pat Brisson, who additionally represents Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Andrew Shaw and Nicolas Beaudin and is shut with Hawks brass. Jones’ status, pretty earned earlier in his profession, is that of an elite defenseman and franchise cornerstone.

The Jackets are about to start out a rebuild and can be seeking to purchase the picks and prospects of which the Hawks are constructing a surplus. And trades present the knowledge that free company negotiations lack, and Bowman would absolutely solely full such a commerce if Jones agreed to signal a long-term extension in Chicago.

The logic begins to crumble, nonetheless, when digging into how elite Jones has truly been recently — and the way he, as the highest defenseman within the commerce market, contrasts with Hamilton, the highest defenseman within the free-agent market.

Jones’ efficiency has certainly declined steadily for years, each offensively and defensively.

His points-per-60-minutes charge peaked at 1.78 in 2017-18 however fell to 1.43 in 2018-19, 1.27 in 2019-20 and 1.19 this previous season — his lowest charge since he was traded from the Predators to Jackets in January 2016.

His even-strength scoring likelihood ratio, in the meantime, peaked at 52.4% in 2016-17 however has now fallen in 4 consecutive years. It dipped into the purple in 2019-20 (at 48.7%) earlier than plummeting to 46.8% this season, rating 152nd amongst 211 defensemen league-wide. His expected-goals ratio was even uglier — 42.8%, rating 201st of the 211 — and the Jackets had been accordingly outscored 61-45 throughout his even-strength ice time.

To be honest, the Jackets’ general crew efficiency additionally fell off a cliff this season, however Jones was a part of the issue moderately than a sufferer of it.

That may be seen by Jones’ stats alongside Zach Werenski, the Jackets’ different elite defenseman. In 2017-18 and 2018-19, Jones and Werenski made one another higher. Their even-strength scoring-chance ratio throughout 2,200 minutes collectively was 52.8%; their particular person ratios with out the opposite had been each under 50%.

However the previous two seasons, their outcomes collectively worsened (48.4% scoring-chance ratio) and Jones struggled much more with out Werenski (46.8%) — but Werenski thrived with out Jones (52.4%).

Modifications of surroundings and system will virtually actually enhance Jones’ numbers and effectiveness.

He stays very gifted, with the poise, imaginative and prescient, passing capacity and rangy, adept stick utilization wanted to excel as a two-way defenseman within the trendy NHL. He has an ideal 6-4, 213-pound body. He’s within the prime years of his profession, set to show 27 in early October.

However contemplating how inflated Jones’ status has turn into in relation to his skates-on-the-ice efficiency, any commerce to amass him — even with Kekalainen now in a sticky state of affairs with comparatively little leverage — could be an enormous overpay. For the Hawks, it will possible require a bundle together with the eleventh general decide, one among their two second-round picks and an upper-tier prospect like Adam Boqvist or Ian Mitchell.

Bowman, if he paid that, would describe it as the mandatory worth to pay for a proven-but-still-young No. 1 defenseman, the type he’s at present praying Boqvist or Mitchell can finally turn into.

Bowman could be proper concerning the Hawks’ dire want for that defensive star energy. Duncan Keith could be higher off as a second-pair man at this stage of his profession; Connor Murphy has turn into a bonafide first-pair choice however can’t carry the Hawks’ complete unit. The Hawks is likely to be finest served staying affected person with their youth motion, however there’s an argument for filling that gaping gap proper now.

Bowman could be improper in that hypothetical situation, although, about who he selected to pursue to fill it.

Dougie Hamilton has generated terrific outcomes for the Hurricanes the previous three seasons.
AP Images

Hamilton, if someway satisfied to signal with the Hawks, wouldn’t solely dwell as much as that billing as a proven-but-still-young No. 1 defenseman but additionally probably repair the entire unit.

A reasonably profitable however polarizing determine earlier in his profession in Boston and Calgary, Hamilton has ascended into the best echelon of elite defensemen throughout his previous three seasons in Carolina.

At even power throughout that point interval, he ranks first amongst 224 NHL defensemen in shot-attempt ratio (57.4%), third in scoring-chance ratio (57.8%) and third in expected-goals ratio (57.3%). The Hurricanes have outscored opponents 178-129 throughout his ice time. And he has contributed considerably to that goal-scoring, too, averaging 2.19 factors per 60 minutes final season and a couple of.02 this season.

Hamilton’s current playoff performances (together with this 12 months) haven’t been fairly as constant or spectacular, however that shouldn’t undermine his inventory an excessive amount of. The Hurricanes understandably hope to maintain him however will wrestle to take action, with restricted cap house and a large number of different free brokers — together with high-profile RFAs Andrei Svechnikov and Alex Nedeljkovic — to additionally re-sign.

So Hamilton will, extra possible than not, turn into honest recreation when the market opens July 28.

He’ll immediately obtain the affections of most of the NHL’s now-32 franchises, particularly since this 12 months’s UFA defensemen pool is shallow past Hamilton, Tyson Barrie and Alec Martinez. The Hawks can be one among many suitors, and the chances can be low for them to win the sweepstakes.

In the event that they someway may, although, Hamilton could be every part they want — and wouldn’t set again the youth motion by taking away picks and prospects. The identical can’t be mentioned about Jones.

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