The line is that you have to give something to get something in this league, and the Carolina Hurricanes gave up two former top five draft selections who haven’t quite lived up to expectations in Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin.
What they’re getting back with Dougie Hamilton and Micheal Ferland are two big bodies, 6’6” and 6’2” respectively, who each have the ability to put up 20 goals or more in a Carolina uniform.
The best player involved in this trade is Hamilton. The big right-handed defenseman was taken 9th overall in the 2011 NHL Draft and has been a stalwart in a top-four role for both the Bruins and Flames since his debut in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.
Dougie Hamilton (traded to Carolina) is an elite top-pair defender who has never been deployed like one in Calgary. Takes a lot of penalties but contributes a ton individually and improves teammates heavily. pic.twitter.com/KPwKF80RXz— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) June 23, 2018
An understated advantage that Hamilton has over a similarly tooled Justin Faulk is his ability to score at even strength. Of his league-leading 17 tallies last season as a defenseman, only six of them came on the power play. And since his entrance into the league, about 66% of his goals came at 5v5.
Faulk, by contrast, has relied much more heavily on man-advantage situations to score goals, as only 54% of his goals have come at even strength. Not to downplay his role — Faulk has been valuable as the power play quarterback for the last few seasons in Raleigh. But something we’ve seen for a while now is a lack of production from the Hurricanes’ blue line group as a whole at even strength, and Hamilton certainly has the ability to jump start that here.
Hamilton and Mark Giordano were one of the best pairings in hockey last season, with Hamilton driving the offensive production and Giordano in a more defense-first role. Hamilton posted a very strong 57.55 CF%, which was just third in the league among defensemen who played more than 15 games (Giordano was second). His on ice shooting percentage sits just above a league average at 7.9% last season, while his expected goals for percentage checks in at an impressive 56.61%.
Hamilton also boasted an expected +/- of 16.2, good for eighth in the league and seven spots higher than his usual partner Giordano. This is indicative of good shot quality at even strength in the offensive zone when he’s on the ice while denying on the other end. The numbers reveal that he was one of the strongest offensive defensemen in the NHL last season.
One caveat is that Hamilton did receive some criticism regarding his reliance on his partner in a lot of situations, but his possession numbers did not drop significantly in the rare instances that he was paired with T.J. Brodie or Brett Kulak. And even if Giordano were more defensively sound, Hamilton provides elite offensive talent from a RHD that should be playing with a top pairing shutdown defenseman — something the Canes have a few of.
Hamilton also seems to have some penalty trouble. Last season he committed more than three times as many penalty minutes as he drew, which is significantly higher than the league average. This speaks to a bad habit of taking minor penalties, oftentimes in a pinch in the defensive zone. He’s not very physical despite his frame, sometimes to a fault, recording just 1.0 Hits/GP and 1.0 Blocks/GP last season. These numbers are very similar to Hanifin’s (1.0 Hits/GP and 0.9 Bks/GP) who has a similar frame and stature.
The most exciting thing about Hamilton is the upside that could manifest itself on Carolina. He was one of the NHL’s most productive defensemen last season playing on a team ranked 27th in goals scored. With more offensive talent on its way to Raleigh and the likelihood of Hamilton seeing more power play minutes (something he reportedly asked for in Calgary last season), it’s quite reasonable to expect even more production.
What the Canes are getting with Hamilton is a big - but not physical - offensive defenseman who can step in and post offensive numbers at a higher rate than Justin Faulk. His presence affords the Canes two modern offensive defensemen with the ability to play top pairing minutes on the right side, a luxury that few NHL clubs can boast that.
Ferland is a big left winger from Manitoba taken in the 5th round of the 2010 Draft. He can be described as a power forward with some skill in his game and an underrated release around the net. Similar to Hamilton, Ferland has a clear upward trend since his entrance into the league in 2014. He was a 20-goal scorer last season for the first time in his career, but this should be taken with a grain of salt as he was paired on the top line alongside Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau due to the Flames’ lack of depth on the left wing.
Micheal Ferland [sic] is a good bottom-six forward. pic.twitter.com/sUQAsoMksI— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) June 23, 2018
To be clear, Ferland is not a top line winger. Still, he performed very well in his overslotted role, relying on his skilled linemates to create opportunities and find him in a position to score.
Ferland boasted a high GF% at 56.04%, which is to be expected playing on the top line. His xGF% seems a bit more realistic at 50.55% while his CF% checks in at 51.96%. Ferland scored at a pace that is indicative of a solid middle-six forward with some sneaky skill.
His even strength time on ice per games played was just 13:08, which is a bit higher than Brock McGinn and a little lower than Derek Ryan. I’d expect for him to get a bit more with the Canes, maybe playing closer to 14 minutes per night like Elias Lindholm.
The Ferland acquisition speaks to owner Tom Dundon’s desire to become a tougher team to play against moving forward. Ferland is certainly that type of guy, playing a grinding and physical offensive game that allows him to get to prime positions on the ice for scoring opportunities.
Hamilton and Ferland provide Carolina with a top pairing right-handed defenseman and a coach’s favorite middle-six winger with some size and physicality that the Canes’ lineup has been lacking for years. They bring a lot to the table that should generate some excitement around next season.