Travis Hamonic has no regrets. Not about the wrenching personal issue that caused him to ask Islanders general manager Garth Snow for a trade in training camp before last season, nor Hamonic’s decision to rescind that request on May 10, the last day the team convened following their playoff exit.
And certainly none this season, which has not gone the way the 26-year-old defenseman nor his team had planned.
“It’s so far in the distance now. I’m here, I’m happy to be here and that’s all,” Hamonic said last week. “I’m grateful, I’m happy, my family’s happy. That’s all that matters to me right now.”
The entire saga seems a bit like a bad dream now. Word leaked out last November and Hamonic held an emotional news conference, explaining his decision that was over six weeks old: There was a family issue back home in Winnipeg and he asked Snow to try and move him closer to home.
Snow was unwilling to simply give Hamonic away, with top-four righthanded defensemen on incredibly team-friendly deals (Hamonic is now in year four of a seven-year, $27-million contract) difficult to find and even harder to replace.
The GM made it known to his counterparts he was seeking a similar player in return. So the Oilers and Jets, who both coveted Hamonic, could not find a fit and, as Snow had cautioned Hamonic, there was no deal to be made during the season.
Hamonic’s family issue became less dire and he ultimately told Snow that he wanted to stay. Some GMs might have felt yo-yoed around; Snow was simply pleased one of his team’s emotional leaders was committed to staying.
“Is it relief, satisfaction that Travis came to me? Absolutely,” Snow said in May. “We think the world of him as a person and a player. He’s a 25-minute defenseman and he’s very effective.”
Hamonic has been paired with Nick Leddy just about the entire first half of the season and the results have not been pretty. Hamonic’s minus-14 rating is certainly unattractive, but plus/minus is hardly an accurate gauge of quality of play.
Instead, look at Hamonic’s shots for/against percentage while on the ice — it’s currently just below 45 percent, which is better than it was earlier this season but still too far below average for a top-pair defenseman.
That’s of little concern to his teammates and his coach, who see the all-out competitor who is the first one to jump in when an opposing player takes liberties with John Tavares. Hamonic leads the Islanders with three fighting majors this season in the absence of departed enforcer Matt Martin.
“We’re obviously happy to have him here — he’s a competitor, he goes out and gives it his all every night and he’s a big part of the team,” Josh Bailey said. “He dealt with [his situation last season] internally and it was by no means ever a distraction with the team, and that’s absolutely the right way to go about it. He handled it like a pro. This is the first time it’s been brought up in a long time.”
That is perhaps the biggest part of Hamonic’s uncomfortable 2015-16, that it was handled so smoothly by player and team and is now, as Hamonic puts it, well behind him.
“It’s so far in my rearview mirror. It’s not even a thought for me anymore,” he said. “I’m pretty grateful I’m where I am, just to nip it in the bud right there, that’s probably the best answer I could give you.”
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