Whether it’s opting out of the season, which is irreversible and must be decided by Friday, retirement, or trade, Travis Hamonic is not returning to the Vancouver Canucks. Barring a shocking reversal by the player, the Canucks likely top-pair right defenseman has gone AWOL (Absent Without Leave, to use an old military term).
It leaves Vancouver Canucks General Manager Jim Benning left holding an empty bag.
When Hamonic signed a two-year, $3-million per season deal on July 28, should we really have expected the team’s GM to say, “Now remember Travis, there’s a pandemic, you’re sure you want to play, right?”
No. Reasons aside, lack of vaccination and family matters are apparently the issue here. Of course, to be fair to Hamonic, Covid optimism and the outlook has changed to a degree since July, when many of us believed the pandemic might be mostly on its way out by the time hockey season started.
Obviously, it’s still omnipresent and strict protocols are in place.
We won’t get into personal reasoning or beliefs. Some have suggested the best way for Hamonic to protect his family is to get vaccinated, but that’s not for us to say. There is absolutely nothing malicious here regarding his decision or his status. Reasons not withstanding, GM Benning is ultimately the “victim” of the scenario if it plays out as expected.
Right or wrong, fans have a right to complain about any maneuver a team’s management makes. They’re ultimately paying the bills. But in this case, Benning signed a blueliner in good faith, who had played 38 games with the Canucks last season. He appeared to have decent chemistry with young star defenceman Quinn Hughes and signed for a pretty decent sum. Hamonic’s career-high salary was just more than $3.8-million in when he signed for seven years with the New York Islanders back in 2013.
Four years into the deal, he decided he wanted to go home to Manitoba, or as close as possible, to be near his family. His request was honoured in June of 2017 when the Calgary Flames shipped a first-rounder and two second-rounders to the Islanders in exchange for Hamonic and a fourth-round pick.
After three years in Alberta to finish that contract he signed in Vancouver last year for one season at $1.25-million dollars, which means he’d be walking away from a pretty good raise, not that far from his career max’. That $3-million cap hit would immediately be available to the Canucks. A consolation prize, yes, that can be utilized to potentially sweeten the pot and speed up a resolution to the Quinn Hughes and Elias Pettersson contract impasse with agent Pat Brisson. If you think the agent isn’t waiting to see what happens to Hamonic’s money over the next few days, you’re kidding yourself. In fact, they could negotiate today with that potential money in mind. Negotiations are indeed taking place today, very likely as I speak.
But the consolation prize is just that. The bigger issue is the D-corps. If any money remains it won’t replace Hamonic, and what’s considered the weak spot on the roster, the back-end, only gets shallower. That’s a problem for a manager and coach who’s survival revolves around making the playoffs.
Meanwhile, we were told Monday afternoon that the Canucks are considering the trade option, and why wouldn’t they. There is no rush from their perspective, unless they think they can get a valuable player in return. That’s unlikely for cap reasons especially considering the aforementioned negotiations. They’re likely left trying to solve the D-issue internally for now. Overall, they can trade this contract at any time even when the player is sitting out and even after the trade deadline, as Hamonic would be ineligible to play. Good luck finding takers. Vancouver would likely have to include other considerations, another reason to be extremely annoyed. Even if they’re not getting an actual player and a cap hit in return, they have every reason to want to eventually unload Hamonic. If he opts out, are they really going to count on him coming back next summer and being ready to play? Regardless of why, how would they feel about being jilted? How would those in the dressing room feel, particularly if this player isn’t vaxxed?
From Hamonic’s perspective, if he’s not vaxxed, the trade scenario would indeed involve a rush job. He’d be able to play in more games this season with a US team simply based on the number of franchises south of the border. Cross-border play would be next-to-impossible based on quarantine rules etc., so not being vaxxed and playing a limited number of games with a Canadian franchise is not an option. Although ironic based on his earlier work location desires and the fact he’d be away from family, one could understand an interest in moving south to keep his career going; he’s 31-years-old and should have a lot of hockey left. Then again, what team would want a part-time player who would potentially have to sit out a playoff series. Again, it would likely involve the Canucks somehow sweetening the pot to lose the cap hit.
Ultimately, one can see why the Vancouver Canucks would want to wash their hands of this player, just as Travis Hamonic has apparently washed his hands of the Vancouver Canucks. We’ll have an answer in about the next 72 hours.