There is no indication the New York Islanders are anywhere closer to trading Travis Hamonic -- but wait! It could be (a) Monday! Or (a) Tuesday! -- but the Winnpeg Jets' signing of Dustin Byfuglien to a five-year contract extension adds one more data point to the puzzle of figuring out where and when the Isles might be able to honor Hamonic's summer request to be dealt closer to his Winnipeg-area home
Until today's announcement of a five-year, averaged $7.6 million-per-year deal with the big defenseman, the Jets had a trio of free agents in captain Andrew Ladd (UFA), Byfuglien (UFA) and promising young defenseman Jacob Trouba (RFA, coming off his ELC) who will all command big money on their next deal.
How much money? Essentially "all of it," according to a report out of Winnipeg that made league-wide headlines before the Christmas break.
Speculation about these free agents -- and even how they might influence a potential trade for Hamonic's contract -- has been on-going much of the season, but the December Winnipeg Free Press article with headline-grabbing phrasing ("more than $152 million worth of future contract demand," which is almost like citing a line's combined +/- for dramatic effect) ratcheted up the speculation by giving some "real" numbers to the story.
According to that report, Byfuglien wanted $55 million over eight years (turns out he got similar AAV but shorter term), Trouba wants "more than $56 million" over eight years, and Ladd wants six years at $41 million. As a forward, Ladd doesn't positionally factor into the Hamonic question, but in terms of budget and cap space he's another key variable.
In his 30 Thoughts column at the time of that leak, Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet noted another variable: Trouba's agent.
His agent, Kurt Overhardt, seemed shocked when asked for a comment. "The information abut Jacob is incorrect," he said. "Incorrect."
Another agent, upon reading that quote, texted, "This is going to be a problem."
I wrote about Overhardt last season when Ryan Johansen had a contract stalemate with Columbus. His reputation is well-known. Like many agents, he will see this as a situation that calls for ferocious protection of a young client. He’s not going to be happy, and the fallout could be long-lasting.
Winnipeg went through an ugly, public divorce with Evander Kane one year ago. Very curious to see how much this relationship needs to be repaired. Or, is it a public admission that it can’t be?
You can follow that Johnansen link for even more dirt, or at least controversy, with Overhardt's approach to negotiations, but the upshot is the Jets face a tricky decision and negotiation with Trouba in particular -- and that could influence whether the Jets changed their reported stance on trading Trouba, as well as the Islanders' stance on pursuing Trouba in a Hamonic trade.
The recent conventional wisdom and reporting on both topics is that: 1) the Isles are far more likely to keep Hamonic for the rest of this season and pursue a trade in the summer when more teams (including the Isles) are rebalancing their assets, and 2) Ladd increasingly sounds like the player who the Jets will trade or let walk.
If so, it becomes increasingly difficult to figure how Hamonic could end up in a Jets uniform.
As discussed previously in this long-unfolding tale, the challenge with a Hamonic trade is that it's not on the table for hockey reasons. Thus, at least according to the early reports and the possibility of an in-season trade, it's not like the Isles seek a different position or type of player in a deal. Alas there are no natural like-for-like matches in the potential destinations Hamonic would want to go to. (And we'll assume here that, given Hamonic's quotes and professed affection for the Islanders, the reasons non-Western teams aren't on the table is because if he can't move closer to home, then he'd prefer the status quo.)
So, to reset where we are with the trade deadline now just three weeks away:
- Hamonic's requested a trade to a few destinations, theoretically limiting the Islanders' bargaining power.
- However, Hamonic's contract is pretty team-friendly, which theoretically adds to his trade value. (And Byfuglien's $7.6 million AAV only underlines that point.)
- There have been mixed reports on whether the Isles asked for Trouba, but if the Jets deem him "unsignable" or his ask is way out of their range, Hamonic's contract suddenly looks more desirable to them...while Trouba's (reported) demands look less desirable to the Isles.
- On that note, however, would the Isles want another defenseman at $7 million per year when they already have Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk on long term deals in that price range, and when Trouba's true value as an NHLer is still being established? (And the Isles, if forced to replace Hamonic, have some cheaper candidates being groomed in the AHL.)
TSN reporter and NHL insider Darren Dreger had more to add on the Jets back in December, saying a Trouba trade would've already happened if the Jets had any interest in dealing him, while he expects Ladd will be re-signed and Byfuglien won't. Obviously things changed or proved Dreger wrong on the latter point, but the Trouba point still stands for now.
So, does Byfuglien's contract extension remove the Jets from consideration as a landing spot for Hamonic? No. But it does reduce the likelihood. (Meanwhile, in Edmonton...)
Lots to think about. Lots of cards to play on many fronts before we learn where Hamonic's future lies.