New Jersey Devils Sign Dougie Hamilton In Free Agency

Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton (19) skates before the game against the Florida Panthers at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton (19) skates before the game against the Florida Panthers at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports /

The New Jersey Devils get their guy. All the signs were pointing to the Devils signing Dougie Hamilton for weeks, but fans were still preparing for disappointment for weeks. The Devils always made sense on paper, but their lack of success in the past and never really signing a big free agent made us all wary. Obviously, that’s all changed now. The Devils signed the best available player on the free agency market as first reported by Nick Kypreos.

Hamilton completely changes the Devils fortunes for the next few years. It seemed like the Devils were going to spend one more year in the rebuild, but the expectations change for the 2021-22 season with Hamilton leading the defense.

Hamilton is an analytical darling. The advanced stats say he is one of the best defensemen in the league. He is 28 years old and he is expected to be at least really good for the entirety of his seven-year contract. Even at north of $60 million, he should provide great value to the Devils while he is wearing the NJ crest. There are situations that can change that, especially injury, but for now, this seems like a slam dunk signing.

The Devils have a strange right side of the defense, but it might be the best in the league. Say what you want about P.K. Subban, but putting him on the third line with Damon Severson on the second line puts the Devils in an insane spot. Teams are desperate for right-shot defensemen right now as we’ve seen with the Rasmus Ristolainen trade. If the Devils go into the season with Hamilton, Subban, and Severson on the right side, this would be top-notch.

The Devils defense as a whole has been looking for an identity since Paul Martin left for Pittsburgh more than a decade ago. They had a decent defense in that 2012 team that went to the Stanley Cup Final, but it was full of players who did not age well. Bryce Salvador, Henrik Tallinder, Anton Volchenkov, and a rapidly aging Marek Zidlicky just didn’t speak of a building franchise on the back end.

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This team has tried many defensemen before finally signing Hamilton. Subban came to save the defense, but back injuries made him a shell of himself. Sami Vatanen came to be number one, but he was much better suited in a second-line role on a really good team. Ryan Murray was a nice flier, but he was always a long shot. Now, the Devils shouldn’t have to worry about the top line for the foreseeable future.

On the left side, Hamilton will likely pair with Ty Smith. He had a phenomenal rookie season, and he’s only going to get better with one of the best partners in the league. Smith and Hamilton could grow into an epic pairing for the Devils over the next five years.

This is a great day for the New Jersey Devils. They got a superstar in free agency. Fans have never seen something like this. Ilya Kovalchuk and Patrik Elias chose the Devils in free agency, but they were returning stars. The Devils are getting the fix on the blue line and all it costs is some of Josh Harris’ money. We have to give Tom Fitzgerald credit. He did what Ray Shero couldn’t. He convinced a top free agent that the Devils were a destination that’s worth signing with.