Go west young man: Handicapping Travis Hamonic’s preferred trade destinations

Travis Hamonic has asked for a trade from the New York Islanders, but making a deal is not going to be easy. And history shows us teams rarely get equal value in return when their hands have been forced.

Travis Hamonic is 25 years old. He’s a mobile, physical defensemen who can munch minutes and has a reasonable amount of offensive potential. He’s a steal against the salary cap, currently leads all defensemen in hits, is a right-shot defenseman and has favorable numbers when it comes to analytics. And his best years as an NHL player could very well be in front of him.

So from the standpoint of New York Islanders GM Garth Snow, there could never be a better time to trade him. But when the player not only asks for a trade, but limits his destination to one of four teams, any leverage Snow had over his possible trade partners is wiped out. There’s nothing the drops a player’s trade market value more dramatically than a desperate need to move him and a limited number of destinations.

Or as one NHL executive said: “Knowing this (Hamonic) kid, he’ll give the Islanders everything he has until something can be worked out, but this is a hard trade for Garth to make.”

If it weren’t it would have gotten done over the summer when Hamonic reportedly originally made his trade request. According to Elliotte Friedman of Rogers Sportsnet, who broke the news, this has been percolating for some time now. If it was difficult to make the deal then under a shroud of secrecy, it isn’t going to be any easier now that everything is out in the open.

If you look at the history of those situations, the team trading the player very rarely gets equal value in return. Phil Kessel, anyone? How about Dougie Hamilton? The only way Snow gets the return he’s seeking for Hamonic is if more than one of the Winnipeg Jets, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers or Vancouver Canucks shows an interest in getting him.

We don’t know for sure what Hamonic’s desired destinations are, but perhaps the answer here is in increasing the number of teams. If he wants to be close to Winnipeg, well, Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa are all closer to Winnipeg than Vancouver is and they all have direct flights. And the closest geographical team to Winnipeg is Minnesota.

The two teams that could use him the most are most definitely the Oilers and Canucks. The Flames don’t seem like a good fit, but the Jets, who stand to lose Dustin Byfuglien to unrestricted free agency after this season, will almost certainly have to make a bid for the native of nearby St. Malo.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at each of Canada’s four western teams and ponder deals that might make sense for each:

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Winnipeg: If Hamonic’s reasons for wanting a deal are family-related, it stands to reason that Hamonic would be happiest most productive as a Jet. But Winnipeg made its big deal on defense when it landed Tyler Myers from the Buffalo Sabres last season. If the Islanders are looking for a defenseman in return, one possibility could be Jacob Trouba, who is looking more like he was rushed into the NHL as a 19-year-old and whose contract expires after this season. The Islanders are not exactly flush with goaltending prospects so Connor Hellebuyck could be a possibility. The Jets have an overabundance of prospects, so any deal with the Islanders would include non-roster players.

Calgary: Had Hamonic made his trade request prior to the Flames trading for Hamilton, there probably would have been a better chance of Calgary being in the running for him. The problem here is that the Flames don’t need another top-four defenseman in the fold and they have some good ones on the way. Not saying the Flames won’t make the deal, but of the four teams, Calgary makes the least sense.

Edmonton: Now you’re talking. What the Oilers would have to determine is whether Hamonic would be a better fit for them than Oscar Klefbom. If they do, then perhaps a one-for-one deal could be made. But if you’ve identified defense as a priority and you have a plethora of young talent up front, why not get bold and offer a Jordan Eberle or Nail Yakupov, particularly when everyone in hockey knows the Oilers are going to get Auston Matthews next season? It would definitely take a top-six forward under contract or a defenseman.

Vancouver: With Dan Hamhuis, Matt Bartkowski and Yannick Weber coming up for unrestricted free agency, the Canucks have some definite issues on the blueline, both now and in the future. Their prospect list is not exactly brimming with defensemen either. Fair value for Hamonic would be Chris Tanev, which comes back to the Edmonton question with Klefbom. If Vancouver thinks Hamonic would be better than Tanev, make the deal. If not, perhaps they can interest the Islanders in goaltending prospect Thatcher Demko and a draft pick. Jake Virtanen and/or Bo Horvat are untouchables and if the Islanders are going to rebuild, it doesn’t make sense to trade too many prospects.