It seems as though many are apologizing to Bruins general manger Don Sweeney in the last few days. Much of that has to do with the realization that Dougie Hamilton did not want to play in Boston.
When Hamilton was traded for a trio of draft picks just hours before the NHL Draft, it left a lot of us searching for answers in a somewhat angry tone. Since then, Sweeney has made some nice moves. Most recently, he stole 27-year-old free-agent winger Matt Beleskey from the Anaheim Ducks with a five-year, $19 million deal, and traded for 6-foot-6 forward, and Dorchester native, Jimmy Hayes.
It’s clear what Sweeney is looking for: grit, passion, heart, and most importantly, pride. The type of pride that comes along with donning the spoked-B on your jersey, wanting to play in a hockey-crazed city like Boston. It’s also pretty clear that that’s not something Hamilton wanted to do. So the Bruins traded him to the Calgary Flames for a first and two second-round picks. Following plenty of initial anger around New England, apologies thrown Sweeney’s way have ensued.
While I think the acquisitions of Beleskey and Hayes are smart additions for a GM who’s trying to put a competitor on the ice next year, I’m not here to apologize for my harsh criticism of the Hamilton trade, even after seeing that Hamilton didn’t want to be here.
One thing that people fail to mention is that Hamilton was a “restricted” free agent. Had another team sent an offer sheet his way — which is something that’s very rare, by the way — all the Bruins had to do was match it and he remains in Boston. If there was no offer sheet from another team, then Hamilton ultimately had no leverage. After all, he was a restricted free agent.
What was he going to do, sit out the season? Give me a break. The Bruins could have played hardball, and they didn’t. All because they didn’t want to spend the money on a 22-year-old top-pair defenseman who wanted out of town.
But here’s what I know. Money talks. And an easy cure for an unhappy pro athlete is a big contract. Even though Hamilton’s deal with Calgary (six years, $34.5 million) is only $1.5 million more than what the Bruins’ final offer was, you can’t convince me that Hamilton would have turned down $7 million per season to stay in Boston. I don’t care how much he disliked it here.
Some say that would have been overpaying. Not me. I believe he’s worth that kind of money. And the Bruins will regret not “overpaying” him and making him happy, in my honest opinion.
I mean, we’re talking about a team that’s now traded two top-four defensemen for draft picks in less than a calendar year. The other two top-four D-men? Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg. Those two aren’t getting any younger.
Hamilton is a franchise-caliber player. He has the type of skill-set for a young defenseman that every team in the league is looking for. But when he began to cry about Boston, the Bruins acted quickly and shipped him off to Calgary.
Surely, Hamilton gets some of the blame. But I still can’t let the Bruins off the hook.
And yes, Sweeney’s made some nice moves the last couple of days. It’s led to a lot of media and fans apologizing to him for the way they angrily reacted to the Hamilton trade.
Just don’t consider me one of them.
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