Shero Believes Acquiring The Rights Of Defenseman Hamhuis Is Well Worth The Risk
Saturday, 06.26.2010 / 12:58 AM
Features By Jason Seidling
The Penguins made a splash at the 2010 National Hockey League Entry Draft on Friday night, and the buzz they created has nothing to do with first-round draft pick Beau Bennett.
Shortly after the first round concluded the Penguins announced they had acquired the rights to defenseman Dan Hamhuis from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for a 2011 third-round draft choice.
Although sending such a high pick to the Flyers in exchange for a player who can be an unrestricted free agent on July 1st is risky business, Penguins general manager Ray Shero believes the potential reward Hamhuis would bring the Penguins should he sign with Pittsburgh is well worth the gamble the team is taking in acquiring his rights.
“I have seen him since we drafted him in Nashville in the first round,” said Shero, who was the Predators assistant general manager when Nashville took Hamhuis 12th overall in 2001. “I was with him in the AHL and in the NHL. He is a good two-way defenseman who is mobile. He makes a good pass. It would strengthen our defense if we can sign him.”
Hamhuis, who stands 6-foot-1, 209 pounds, is thought by many people around the league to be one of the most highly-sought-after free agent defensemen when free agency begins on July 1st. He had spent his entire six-year NHL career with the Predators before his rights were shipped to the Flyers on June 19th along with a 2011 conditional draft pick in exchange for defenseman Ryan Parent.
Shero said he held talks with his former boss in Nashville, David Poile, prior to the Predators trading Hamhuis to Philadelphia. When Philadelphia GM Paul Holmgren gave Shero a second chance to grab Hamhuis, Shero couldn’t pass up on the offer.
“Before he was traded I talked with David, but we didn’t do a deal and he traded his rights to Philadelphia,” Shero said. “We got another chance at it. When I got that chance I traded the third-round choice next year to do it.”
Hamhuis, 27, would offer the Penguins a solid two-way presence capable of performing a shutdown role defensively while also chipping in a bit at the offensive end of the rink.
“Dan is a really solid two-way player who can play against opponents’ top-two lines and provide you with a little offense and play on your second power play,” Shero said. “I think when they got (Shea) Weber and (Ryan) Suter (in Nashville) some of that power-play time was taken away from him. I know him well enough to know that he can do that and play a higher role. He is a great kid with great character. He has a nice family.”
Hamhuis has appeared in 483 career games with the Predators, scoring 32 goals and 161 points while posting a plus-3 rating with 375 penalty minutes. His best season came in 2005-06 when he set career highs across the board with seven goals, 31 assists, 38 points and a plus-11 rating while dressing for all 82 contests.
Shero stated that he had yet to talk to Hamhuis when he addressed reporters, but he did maintain that the acquisition of the Smithers, British Columbia native does not preclude the Penguins from also continuing to negotiate with fellow unrestricted free agent blueliner Sergei Gonchar.
“For our defense, even with Sergei Gonchar, which is not dead, we want to have a conversation with Dan,” Shero said. “I have not talked with him yet. We just did the deal at the end of the first round. I’ll give him a call (Friday) and see if I can reach him and sell him on the merits of playing in Pittsburgh.
“We have done some scenarios where we go with a really strong defense. That is one scenario among about 20. We’ll see how this one shakes out. They are both unrestricted free agents on July 1st, so we still have some work to do.”
As Shero spends the next couple of days making his sales pitch to both Hamhuis and Gonchar, he knows he has quite the product to offer up thanks to the Penguins’ winning ways, tremendous fan support and the state-of-the-art CONSOL Energy Center which the team will christen in October.
“We think Pittsburgh is a great place to play, which Sergei knows,” Shero said. “Hopefully Dan will see that as well.”