Devils pursuing Dougie Hamilton with unique free agency pitch

Slap Shots has learned that the Devils has sent an email to agents extolling the virtues of playing for the organization and in New Jersey.

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Back in the day, before there was a salary cap and free agency began a tick after midnight on July 1 rather than a tick after noon, clubs would send representatives out on the road to present prospective targets with trinkets and perhaps professionally produced promotional DVDs in the dead of the night as part of the recruiting process.

Well, at least the big-market teams would. The Rangers, for instance, would have a gift bag ready for candidates that typically would include a crystal apple from Tiffany. That was part of the pitch.

Those days are gone forever. Inducements are forbidden in the hard cap era. No more baubles. No more DVDs featuring local celebrities imploring a favored free agent to come to their city.

But as this year’s free-agent market is set to open on Wednesday, the Devils have found a different way. Slap Shots has learned that the team has sent an email to agents extolling the virtues of playing for the organization and in New Jersey. Who needs breakfast at Tiffany’s?

“Jersey is an incredible place to play and live. Players who come here quickly realize all that the state has to offer,” general manager Tom Fitzgerald writes. “We are close to major cities, beautiful beaches, fine dining and a myriad of entertainment options. We are also home to many welcoming communities. In fact, many Devils’ families were built and grown right here in the Garden State.

“I have a distinct vision of the culture we are building here and what we look for in players. I expect them to be committed to who we are and what we are, to compete day-in and day-out, regardless of skill level, and to be accountable to teammates, coaches, and most importantly, themselves. We will challenge our team to strive for excellence because I know we are on our way there.”

The email includes a link to a dedicated site meant to be shared with prospective free agents that features ownership, the organization (“FIRST CLASS ORGANIZATION”), the staff, the fans and the community.

Dougie Hamilton
Getty Images

“It is our collective responsibility in New Jersey to build us back to a level of greatness, and I feel we are way on our way there,” Fitzgerald writes in closing. “Let us build our new legacy — together.”

That and somewhere around $63 million might entice Dougie Hamilton to sign on with a Devils team that is overflowing with young guys who are not yet ready for prime time but is still searching for a foundation that will support the growth of the Hughes Bros., Ty Smith, young veteran Nico Hischier and the like.

We’re told that there might be mutual interest between the Devils and Hamilton, who previously had been linked to the Kraken. That interest could come in the form of a seven-year deal worth an average of $9 million per. The contract would essentially replace P.K. Subban’s when No. 76’s deal expires at the end of the season. It would also create a splash.

The Devils have missed the playoffs eight of the past nine years. New Jersey is not regarded as a destination spot. When players craft no-trade lists, the Devils are often on it. When expensive players around the league want out, they rarely ask to come to the Devils. So Fitzgerald has done a lot of shopping in the discount lane.

I don’t believe this is a New Jersey thing. Players took less money to stay during the Era of Excellence that produced three Stanley Cups in nine years from 1995-2003. I think it’s a franchise thing. I think it is a perception thing. It reminds me of the Mets before they got Keith Hernandez in 1983. It reminds me of the Islanders before Lou Lamoriello hung his shingle in Nassau County.

Can an email help change the perception? At least it costs less than a Tiffany crystal apple.


Seth Jones had told the Blue Jackets he would only consider signing an extension with either Dallas or Chicago, Slap Shots has learned, so that’s where Columbus focused its efforts on trading the latest player to ask out of Columbus.

(Have you thought about an email, JD?)

Seth Jones
AP

When the Stars dropped out, the Jackets then sent the defenseman to the Blackhawks for a bounty that included Adam Boqvist (perhaps at least an equally effective player), a flip of 2021 first-rounders that elevated the Jackets 20 spots in the order, plus a first-rounder and second-rounder. If Chicago understood its leverage, then GM Stan Bowman surely didn’t use it.

Then, to compound the folly, the Blackhawks gave Jones a mind-boggling eight-year deal worth an average value of $9.5 million despite a rather steady decline that included a bottoming-out 2020-21. Good luck on that.


So Cale Makar’s six-year second contract worth $9 million per that he signed with the Avalanche on Saturday sets the bar for Adam Fox. It was always going to be that way. The question is whether the Norris is the cherry on top that pushes Fox to an average of $9.25 million or above for the same six-year term that would kick in for 2022-23?


The Flyers, they must see something in Risto Ristolainen that kind of escapes everyone else, no?

Maybe Arizona is hoping to retroactively win the Auston Matthews lottery, is that possibly it?


Finally, here’s one with which we can leave you.

Gerry Johansson, the agent for Luke Prokop, was driving along the other night when he received a call from someone outside of the hockey world asking for the cell number of the 19-year-old Predators prospect who on Monday became the first active player under an NHL contract to publicly come out as gay.

The agent gave the caller the young man’s digits.

And when Prokop next heard the ring, the man on the other end of the line was Elton John.

This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Larry Brooks

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