Will the Preds lose Hamhuis to free agency riches?

Sunday, June 13, 2010 at 11:45pm
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Dan Hamhuis is one who regularly counts his blessings.

The Nashville Predators’ defenseman is as earnest as any 27-year-old father of two, solid in his faith and unwilling to take his physical gifts for granted.

In a little more than two weeks, though, he might have to pause to count his money as well. There’s likely to be lots of it.

Hamhuis is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent when the National Hockey League’s next contract year begins on July 1. If he does, he will be one of the most sought-after players available, because of the combination of his age and consistent production over an extended period of time — not to mention that impeccable character.

“I’m at a point in my career where there are lots of options,” Hamhuis said shortly after the season. “I don’t want to close the doors on anything.”

While dozens of players in the league go through that process every year, his situation represents something brand-new for the Predators. This is the first time the franchise risks getting nothing in return for a guy it selected in the first round (in 2001) and developed into a full-time NHL player. The Predators typically cherish their draft choices, particularly the top ones.

Under the current collective bargaining agreement, players are eligible for unrestricted free agency at 27 years old, three years younger than under the business plan that was in place when the franchise joined the league.

“If you’re a team whose bread and butter is young players and draft picks, this is part of the system that’s not good,” Nashville General Manager David Poile said. “It’s not good for us at all, but this is the system we have right now.”

Predators’ management and Hamhuis (along with his representatives) discussed an extension at times during the season but agreed to halt talks at the Olympic break so the player could remain focused on hockey. Since Chicago eliminated the Predators in the first round, negotiations have resumed — but with little progress.

“It’s going to be a difficult negotiation,” Poile said. “What they’re looking for doesn’t fit into our budget … and I don’t see it as something we can make work for us right now.”

The closest Nashville ever has come to this scenario was in 2007, when Scott Hartnell, the sixth overall selection in 2000, was traded to Philadelphia less than two weeks before he was to hit the open market. The Flyers immediately signed the rugged forward to a long-term deal, and this season he played a significant role in that team’s run to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Goalie Brian Finley, the first-round choice in 1999, was not offered a contract following the 2005-06 season, but he had not established himself as an NHL player, and management had decided that he never was going to be one. Others, such as Scottie Upshall and Ryan Parent, were traded years before their free agent eligibility.

“Scott Hartnell was our player and Dan Hamhuis is our player,” Poile said. “Both of them still should be ours, but that’s not the way it works.”

A recent ranking of this year’s potential NHL free agents by one online outlet listed Hamhuis as the fourth-best player overall and second among defensemen.

His appeal is rooted in the fact that he figures to provide a greater degree of certainty than most free agents. In six NHL seasons, he never has missed more than four games. His annual point total never has strayed far from 25 — with the exception of 2005-06, when he racked up 38. His average ice time has been even more consistent.

3 Comments on this post:

By: dustywood on 6/14/10 at 8:16

We should try and keep this guy. But then he needs to determine if a big amount of money is truly worth the move. How much time would he get on another team. Could he be a better player there. Why not a contract that allows the club to sign other needed player? Like top goalie for New Jersey Devils signed. I stayed at my place of employment because of the organization, and coworkers. Could have gone somewhere else for more money, but I did not need that stress. Hammie should really put his thinking cap on....Just think of the cost of a new home, and the move. His children are not school age just yet, but that would be a major consideration in the future.

By: Lorenzo on 6/14/10 at 10:51

While Hamhuis may have the same thoughts of former Predator and current Philly Flyer, Kimmo Timonen, that is, move to a team that has a strong chance to play for the Stanley Cup Final instead of a team that historically can't get out of the first round.

By: sharko20 on 6/14/10 at 9:31

Hamhuis belongs in Vancouver close to home. His kids are a long way from being school age so there is no reason to even consider that in his decision. This is the Preds problem. Grooming players to free agency status only to see them depart because of the price tag. Not that I'm anxious to keep Hamhuis, but if they can't sign Weber or Suter that will be the writing on the preverbial wall to fans that this team will never be able or willing to really compete for the cup.