Revisiting the Travis Hamonic Trade

During the 2017 NHL Draft, the Islanders traded defenseman Travis Hamonic and a fourth-round pick in the 2019 NHL draft to the Calgary Flames. The Islanders in return received a 2018 first-round pick, a 2018 second-pick and a 2019 second-round pick.

At the time this trade occurred, most Islanders fans thought that those picks would then be used to acquire Matt Duchene from the Colorado Avalanche; however, Joe Sakic, who is the Colorado Avalanche’s General Manager, was asking for too much in return and the Islanders backed out. In turn, the Islanders kept the picks and never moved them.

The trade hurt the Islanders in the short term but helped them in the long run.

The trade, at first, seemed to be pretty bad for the Islanders, even with the intent of using the picks to acquire Duchene. Following the report that the Islanders were out of the Duchene sweepstakes, the trade looked even worse.

The deal that sent Hamonic to Calgary appeared to be the wrong move because the Islanders had just missed the playoffs by a single point during the 2016-17 season. And the Islanders defense during that season was not great. The team was eighth-worst in the league in goals-against.

Another statistic that does not bode well for the team is that during the 2016-17 season the Islanders had 1,782 scoring chances against them while the league average for scoring chances against a team was 1,584.

Think about that.

The Islanders have given up about 200 more scoring chances than the league average. Also, the Islanders gave up 384 high dangerous scoring chances against them (which are scoring opportunities from the slot area and rebounds) during the 2016-17 season compared to the league average of 351.

So then how is trading one of your top defenseman, who plays an average of 20 minutes per game, a good idea? How is that going to improve your team?

Well, it didn’t. And the Islanders certainly felt the effects of Hamonic’s absence the following season.

During the 2017-18 season, the Islanders’ defense was very sub-par. The team was last in the league in goals-against, and their penalty kill percentage was the lowest in the NHL. Also, the team gave up 2,918 shots against, compared to the league average for shots against, which was 2,620. Furthermore, the Islanders had 1,941 scoring chances against them while the league average for scoring chances against a team was 1,676.

The disappointing part is that the Islanders’ offense that year was overall successful. They were seventh-best in the league for goals for, and their power-play percentage was sixth-best in the league.

If the Islanders had the proper defense, they could have been a problem for the league. Obviously, Hamonic was not single-handedly going to turn the Islanders into the best defensive team in the league, but his presence on the blue-line certainly would have helped the Islanders.

Here’s where things start to change. Last season, the Islanders’ defense was not the problem. With Barry Trotz’s defensive system that he implemented as the new Islanders bench boss, the team’s defensive play has been phenomenal. With that, Travis Hamonic probably wouldn’t have made a significant difference considering the Islanders’ defense was already pretty solid last season.

The Islanders needed offense last season, not defense, and having Travis Hamonic is not a defenseman who is racking up points. In his previous two seasons in Calgary, Hamonic has only put up 30 points. Hamonic also put up a career-high for one season with 62 giveaways.

“National Hockey League forwards reach their peak scoring performance at age 28 and defencemen peak at age 29,” the UBC business school reports. “Goaltenders show little change in performance based on age, says a new study that crunched the numbers.”

Travis Hamonic, in fact, just turned 29 on Aug. 16. According to the study, he would be hitting his peak next season. Offensively, Hamonic’s numbers in his career have not been that impressive and last season he only put up 19 points, so it’s hard to imagine for Hamonic’s “peak” season that he’s going to break out into a Norris trophy winning defenseman.

If this holds, the Islanders won the trade. Because Hamonic’s mediocre prime is not something the Islanders are missing out on, their defense is already pretty solid. Obviously, Hamonic’s addition to the Islanders would make their defense stronger, but the Islanders’ offense is more in need of improvement than their defense.

Besides the fact Hamonic’s presence on the blueline is not needed as it once used to be, the return for Hamonic has the potential to be special.

The 2018 first-round pick the Islanders received from Calgary turned out to be the 11th overall pick in the draft. With that pick, the Islanders selected Noah Dobson, who has enormous potential. With his big 6’3” frame, he’s often been compared to three-time NHL All-Star and NHL All-Second-Team Seth Jones.

Having a defenseman on the Islanders who is similar to Seth Jones would be incredible. The Islanders have good defensemen, but none of them are offensive weapons like Seth Jones. In the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Dobson put up 147 points in 186 games during the regular season and added 47 points in 51 playoff games.

With the 2018 second-round pick the Islanders received from Calgary, the Islanders selected center Ruslan Iskhakov at 43rd overall. Last season, playing with the University of Connecticut, Iskhakov recorded 21 points in 32 games.

Finally, with the 2019 second-round pick, the Islanders selected defenseman Samuel Bolduc at 57th overall. In the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Bolduc put up 51 points in 128 games.

Both Iskhakov and Bolduc have the potential to be solid NHL players, but as the picks get deeper and deeper in the NHL draft, the skill and talent of the players seem to decrease, as does the assurance to get an NHL player.

Iskhakov and Bolduc are both talented players, but there is no guarantee they will become solid players for the Islanders; however, they have the potential to be solid players one day in the future. One day, they may become All-Stars, and maybe help the Islanders make a push towards the Stanley Cup.


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