The New Jersey Devils decided to take the plunge and commit a $9 million per season salary to defenseman Dougie Hamilton. The Devils tried multiple times to get a top defenseman with trades for Sami Vatanen and P.K. Subban in years prior, but the defense never really got much better. It was time to just make the move for a known commodity without worrying about the question marks surrounding him. In his first season with the Devils, Hamilton hasn’t had the best season. Or, has he?
We wrote about this very topic about a month ago. The reason we’re here again is there are actually fans looking to dump Hamilton in the first year of his contract.
Have there been mistakes? Sure. Has he been worth $9 million this season? Honestly, that’s a harder question to answer. There’s so much about this season that’s gone wrong before Hamilton’s struggles. He was hit in the face by a puck on January 2nd against the Washington Capitals, breaking his jaw and forcing him to miss six weeks.
Prior to the injury, Hamilton led all Devils defensemen in CorsiFor%, meaning he was the best defender in terms of being on the ice for more chances than he was for chances against. He also led the team in high-danger chances, beating out a surging Jesper Bratt. Even when looking at his goals against, it showed his impact at 5v5. The Devils scored 17 high-danger goals when he was on the ice and allowed 19. When Damon Severson was on the ice through January 2nd, the Devils only scored 5 high-danger goals and allowed 14. (All stats coming from Natural Stat Trick.)
Hamilton returned to the lineup on February 24th against the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Devils won 6-1 and Hamilton took five shots. Despite not getting on the scoresheet, it looked like the team would be different down the stretch with Hamilton in the lineup.
The good times would not keep rolling. However, things are not as bad as they appear. Hamilton since returning from injury has a 60.82 HDCF%. Only Kevin Bahl and Fabian Zetterlund have better numbers since then, and they’ve played 7 and 6 games compared to Hamilton’s 26. He’s helping the Devils get good chances. The issue is that the bad chances are going in while Hamilton is on the ice. His on-ice save percentage is just .886. Even for the Devils, that’s bad.
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The power play has been bad all around for the Devils. Hamilton’s return hasn’t helped. That might be the biggest issue with Hamilton right now. He’s supposed to be a power-play superstar. Since returning, Hamilton has been on the power play for 64 minutes, and he’s been on the ice for five goals. In that same time, Hamilton has seen two shorthanded goals against. To be just +3 in goal differential with a man advantage is absolutely terrible.
It makes it even worse that Hamilton has one point on the power play in that time. He has one secondary assist in 64 power-play minutes. His numbers with the man advantage NEED to get better, but that goes for the entire Devils roster and coaching staff. Last season, the penalty was one of the worst of all time, and they fixed it in the offseason by adding talent and changing the philosophy. The same needs to happen with the power play.
Hamilton is going to be fine. He’s actually fine right now. He’s actually good when not considering the power play, but that’s obviously a major part of the equation. Once the Devils fix their man advantage as a whole, Hamilton will be well worth $9 million per season.