Dougie Hamilton is the most interesting restricted free agent in the NHL. That's what happens when a 22-year-old who looks set to become a franchise defenceman gets traded. It was cap struggles that forced his movement, which means a big contract is likely on the way.
The Calgary Flames wouldn't have traded for him if they weren't confident they could sign him, though. And while the Boston Bruins are pressed right up against the cap, the Flames have space to spare.
As long as Hamilton is signed prior to July 1 - the day free agency opens - no team can offer sheet him. Any longer than that, and a jilted franchise - say, the Edmonton Oilers, who the Flames beat out - may come running.
It's probably not going to be an issue, though.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Treliving says he's talked to JP Barry, Hamilton's agent, a couple times already. Doesn't foresee any issues with signing the RFA. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Flames?src=hash">#Flames</a></p>— Pat Steinberg (@Fan960Steinberg) <a href="https://twitter.com/Fan960Steinberg/status/614627109298937857">June 27, 2015</a></blockquote>
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That leaves one issue, still: just what is Hamilton's next contract going to look like?
As Elliotte Friedman wrote in his 30 Thoughts column:
The best information I can give you is it appears the [Bruins] offered six years and $33M to Hamilton, while the response was about $2M per year higher.
That works out to a cap hit of $5.5 million, which would tie Hamilton for the 19th most expensive defenceman in the NHL. It would put him in the same position as Oliver Ekman-Larsson, actually: a player just a year older, with similar abilities, albeit slightly less scoring.
If Hamilton's camp wants $7.5 million a year, though, that would make him the fourth-highest paid defenceman in the league, slotting in between Kris Letang and Ryan Suter's cap hits. As good as Hamilton is right now, he simply isn't as established as they are; although, it's probably fair to say he could be worth as much down the line.
And ultimately, it's Hamilton's call. A team out there will be more than willing to give him exactly what he wants. It wasn't his problem the Bruins didn't have the cap space required to sign him.
Does this mean Hamilton is going to get $7.5 million a year? Probably not. That's how negotiating works: you submit an offer, the player counters, and eventually, you guys meet somewhere in the middle.
Let's say the Flames and Hamilton meet exactly in the middle, and Hamilton ends up signed to a six-year, $6.5 million deal. That would tie him with Alex Pietrangelo and Erik Karlsson for the ninth-highest cap hit for defencemen. Hamilton doesn't score as much as they do, but he's used in a more defensive role. They're also only slightly more established than he is, but they're also a few years older.
In fact, Karlsson's seven-year, $6.5 AAV contract kicked in for his 22-year-old season. He's pretty much exactly what we're looking at in regards to Hamilton's current situation.
There can be a bit of number tweaking to figure out the deal - i.e., a $6 million AAV or five years, or maybe $6.5 million for seven, exactly like Karlsson's - but the good news is, the Flames have the cap space to make the 22-year-old former Bruin happy. They have nearly $21 million in cap space, with just five more restricted free agents to tend to, and no need to fill any roster spots via free agency. For this season, Hamilton's contract won't be a problem.
It's the 2016-17 season that might cause a few issues, as that's when players like Mark Giordano, Sean Monahan, and Johnny Gaudreau will need extensions, and bad contracts like Dennis Wideman, Ladislav Smid, and Deryk Engelland's will still be around (barring any moves between now and then).
For a player like Dougie Hamilton, though? It's worth it.