When the Canucks signed Travis Hamonic to a Professional Tryout (PTO), it was with a nudge and a wink.
Everyone knew the Canucks would be signing the veteran defenceman, but it had to wait until after Micheal Ferland was placed on Long-Term Injured Reserve (LTIR). That had to wait until after the Canucks declared their opening day roster on Tuesday in order to maximize the salary cap relief from Ferland's contract.
All of those dominos fell and the Canucks announced Tuesday afternoon that they had signed Hamonic to a one-year, $1.25 million contract.
That's a major step down from the $3.857 million per year that Hamonic was paid on his last contract, but a crowded free agent market for defencemen and the flat salary cap from the COVID-19 pandemic limited Hamonic's options. His former team, the Calgary Flames, snapped up Chris Tanev to replace him and he had few other options.
With Tanev gone, however, the Canucks had an opening on the right side of their defence, specifically alongside Quinn Hughes. Hamonic provides a veteran right-side defenceman with plenty of experience playing in a top-four role. He also provides it at a budget-friendly pricepoint compared to the premium the Flames paid for Tanev.
Hamonic struggled defensively for the Flames last season and has dealt with injuries multiple times during his career, but has also had some excellent seasons in a top-four shutdown role.
Oddly enough, Hamonic also received a full no-move clause on his one-year contract, meaning the Canucks won't be able to trade him if the season goes south. That's likely because Hamonic doesn't want to go east.
Back in 2015, when Hamonic asked for a trade from the New York Islanders, he cited a desire to play in Canada, closer to his Winnipeg home for family reasons. While Vancouver isn't exactly a stone's throw from Winnipeg, Manitoba's provincial health authorities do have travel restrictions in place for those travelling into the province from the east. If he needed to return home for any reason, it would be much easier to do so from the west.
A no-move clause would also prevent him from being traded to a U.S. team, which would have even more travel restrictions if he needed to return home.
Hamonic is the final piece to the Canucks' roster puzzle, even if he's a piece everyone already knew was in place. Here are the projected lines and pairings for the 2020-21 season with Hamonic included.
J.T. Miller - Elias Pettersson - Brock Boeser
Tanner Pearson - Bo Horvat - Nils Höglander
Antoine Roussel - Adam Gaudette - Jake Virtanen
Tyler Motte - Jay Beagle - Brandon Sutter
Extra: Zack MacEwen
Alex Edler - Nate Schmidt
Quinn Hughes - Travis Hamonic
Olli Juolevi - Tyler Myers
Extras: Jordie Benn, Jalen Chatfield
While Nils Höglander was not on the Canucks' submitted roster, that's primarily for salary cap reasons. Jayce Hawryluk is expected to be on the IR with Ferland, and Höglander will be "called up" again for the season opener against the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday.
This lineup is complicated by the fact that both Benn and Miller will be absent from the Canucks' season opener, reportedly in quarantine due to the NHL's COVID-19 protocol.
Benn and Miller being in quarantine does not necessarily mean that either player tested positive for COVID-19. The NHL's protocol requires "high-risk close contacts" of those who test positive for COVID-19 to quarantine in some situations. People living and eating together are considered high-risk close contacts, as they're spending a significant amount of time together indoors and unmasked. If Miller was staying with Benn in Vancouver, it's possible that someone in Benn's household tested positive and both needed to quarantine.
This is just speculation, however, as the Canucks will not confirm the exact situation affecting Benn and Miller.
With Miller out, Virtanen is expected to play on the top line with Pettersson and Boeser, with MacEwen slotting into the lineup with Roussel and Gaudette.