New Jersey Devils: Dougie Hamilton Will Change His Reputation

Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton (19): James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton (19): James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports /

The New Jersey Devils signed the biggest name on the free-agent market. They gave defenseman Dougie Hamilton a seven-year contract that pays him $9 million per season. The Devils were always named as a target for Hamilton, and eventually, they got their man. The Devils needed a star on the top of the defense. They got it. Hamilton is a legitimate number-one defenseman, and he can help the Devils now and in the future.

That’s a lot of pressure right off the bat. Hamilton is coming from a team in the Carolina Hurricanes where he was one of the best defensemen with Jaccob Slavin. However, with great depth, he didn’t need to be perfect every time. He was very, very good offensively and he was pretty good defensively. You put those two together, and he’s one of the best defensemen in the league.

This isn’t last year’s Devils defense, so Hamilton won’t have to do an insane amount of heavy lifting. The Devils still have P.K. Subban and Damon Severson on the right side. Both those players were playing more than 22 minutes per night. That led all Devils skaters. The Devils don’t need any of them to play those kinds of minutes because they can all supplement each other. However, despite the ability of Severson and Subban to eat minutes, they haven’t been able to set a standard for top defensemen. That is what the Devils have desperately needed.

Hamilton comes with a certain reputation. Is that reputation earned? It doesn’t seem to be. However, he has been traded twice and was allowed to leave in free agency after the Hurricanes gave him a low-ball offer. Hamilton has never had an actual incident on or off the ice that we know about. Bruins fans still boo him constantly to this day. There were rumors he demanded a trade and things had to do with signing his brother Freddie, but all parties seem to deny those rumors. Freddie did end up in Calgary, so take that for what it’s worth.

Hamilton has a real shot to prove himself in New Jersey. He hasn’t been with one team for more than three seasons. Now, he has a seven-year commitment to one franchise that needs him. The Devils absolutely need Hamilton, but Hamilton needs the Devils just as much. His reputation isn’t the best, and there’s not really a reason for that. So, it would be pretty easy to turn around that reputation. Think about Phil Kessel‘s run with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He took the role they asked him to take, and he became a two-time champion because of it. Hamilton would love that siutation. Maybe minus the eventual trade to the Arizona Coyotes, but the Devils aren’t going to get into the same salary cap stretch that Pittsburgh was in.

Hamilton has a lot of pressure, but more than anything this is an opportunity. He can change the scope around his reputation. If he continues to be one of the best in the business for the next five years, he could become even more popular.