After the euphoria of making the big draft-day deal, the day of financial reckoning arrived for the Calgary Flames and Dougie Hamilton – and it turned out not to be too painful.
The Flames signed their newest acquisition to a six-year, $34.5-million contract extension, with an annual salary-cap hit of $5.75-million. That makes Hamilton the highest-paid defenceman on the team: Dennis Wideman is next at $5.25-million; T.J. Brodie signed an extension that averages $4.65-million; and team captain and Norris Trophy candidate Mark Giordano will get a big raise when his $4.02-million-a-year deal ends next season.
In short, the Flames have a lot of money invested in their defencemen, understandable perhaps since that's the primary focus of their team's reconstruction.
Hamilton's contract extension will have an impact on new deals they'll have to negotiate a year from now when two young front-line forwards, Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau, will both be completing their entry-level contracts and looking for long-term extensions as well.
The good news is the Flames had salary-cap room to spare, which was why they were kicking the tires on Los Angeles Kings centre Mike Richards at the NHL entry draft. Their interest in Richards, who has had his contract terminated by the Kings, disappeared on draft day, when they landed Hamilton's playing rights from the Boston Bruins in exchange for one first- and two-second round draft choices.
Boston remained active in the trade market Tuesday, ahead of Wednesday's opening-day of the NHL free-agent season, trading goaltender Martin Jones to the San Jose Sharks for a first-round pick and an unsigned draft choice. Jones will get a chance to start with the Sharks, who were without a No. 1 goalie after trading away the rights to Antti Niemi earlier.
The Winnipeg Jets also got in on the action, signing Drew Stafford to a two-year contract extension worth $8.7-million, which kept him from testing free agency. And after talks broke down last weekend with the Sharks, the Vancouver Canucks traded defenceman Kevin Bieksa to Anaheim for a second-round pick. Adding Bieksa gives the Ducks a veteran insurance policy, in case they are unable to sign potential unrestricted free agent Francois Beauchemin to a contract extension.
But the biggest deal of the day involved the Columbus Blues Jackets, who acquired 22-year-old restricted free agent Brandon Saad from the Chicago Blackhawks in a seven-player exchange. Fearing that another team would extend an offer sheet to Saad that was too rich to fit into their salary cap, the 'Hawks shipped him to the Jackets along with defenceman Michael Paliotta and centre Alex Broadhurst. The Blackhawks get forwards Artem Anisimov, Marko Dano, Jeremy Morin, Corey Tropp – plus a fourth-round draft pick in 2016.
According to Flames' general manager Brad Treliving, Hamilton's extension came in right around the dollar figure he expected to pay on a long-term deal.
"We think we've got a salary structure that fits, knowing what the future holds for us," said Treliving, who added: "Looking after and taking care of our [core] group is the priority."
Hamilton received some anonymous-source criticism after leaving Boston – which has happened before when a young Bruins star departs. But on a conference call with reporters, he didn't get into what role he might have played in his own departure.
For his part, Treliving said the Flames had done due diligence on Hamilton, on and off the ice, and had no issues at all with their newest acquisition.
"There's a lot of things that keep me up at night," said Treliving, "but the type of person and the type of teammate Dougie is is not one of them."
Treliving, who said he was speaking out in defence of Hamilton because of all the questions he'd been asked about him in the past two days, went on to describe Hamilton as an "excellent teammate, a bright young man," and predicted he would be a "good fit" on their team.