Nashville Predators: What Dan Hamhuis’ Return Means for the Defense

DETROIT - JANUARY 29: Dan Hamhuis #2 of the Nashville Predators smiles during the game against the Detroit Red Wings on January 29, 2010 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
DETROIT - JANUARY 29: Dan Hamhuis #2 of the Nashville Predators smiles during the game against the Detroit Red Wings on January 29, 2010 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

The Nashville Predators are reaffirming that they have one of the best defensive units in the NHL. Dan Hamhuis solidifies this stacked group of defenseman.

It may not have sent shock waves through the NHL, but the Nashville Predators snagging veteran Dan Hamhuis is a major upgrade to the defensive unit. They are now stacked from top to bottom with veteran leadership. You can now make a strong argument that the Predators have the best defensive pairings in the NHL with the Hamhuis signing.

Hamhuis last played for the Predators in 2010, and most recently with the Dallas Stars his last two seasons. He will turn 36 in December, but his age shouldn’t be much of a worry for what he’s going to be asked to do. His deal is two years for $2.5 million. This is another team-friendly deal that GM David Poile has constructed. Here is the official announcement of the Hamhuis signing from the Nashville Predators twitter account:

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You can’t help but look over the Predators’ current roster and not be enthusiastic about where they stand in the Central Division. Hamhuis returning to the Predators makes this club a terror on the defensive side of things, as if they weren’t already. That should mean neutralizing some of these high-scoring offensive clubs like the Winnipeg Jets.

Hamhuis’ first six seasons with Nashville

Hamhuis was an important part of the Predators becoming a regular in the playoffs back in the 2000’s. At that time the Predators had to win a lot of their games in low-scoring fashion. They won on toughness and grit. That’s exactly what Hamhuis hangs his hat on now 14 seasons into his NHL career.

One thing that really sticks out about Hamhuis’ first stint with the Predators was his reliability. He was a grinder that you always knew what you were going to get on a game-by-game basis. He knew his role and usually delivered on it. That role was playing a physical brand of hockey and make the other team as uncomfortable as possible.

Hamhuis amassed three-straight seasons of triple digit hits from 2007 to 2010, including 162 in 2007-08. That was during a time when the Predators were making the playoffs most years, but couldn’t get over the hump of the first round. They had very few scoring threats, which held them back. However, it was their gritty style of play on defense that allowed them to remain competitive and at least qualify for the playoffs.

Another huge positive from Hamhuis’ time with the Predators was his consistency. You could count on him to suit up nearly every game. He played in 80-plus games in all but one season with the Predators. That’s extremely impressive for his style of play. He’s coming off of another 80-game season with Dallas, so he’s really not slowing down despite his age.

What we should expect

If Hamhuis’ latest comments about coming back home to Nashville doesn’t get you fired up, then I seriously have to question your passion for this team. Here’s some of his comments about his return, per the Predators official website and 102.5 The Game:

"“It’s frustrating for the forwards, on the teams I’ve played with, to play against those guys because there’s just never a break.  It’s a team that I would like to be a part of, to contribute to hopefully the Nashville Predators winning a Stanley Cup.”"

Hamhuis also comments in that interview that Peter Laviolette sees him fitting in nicely behind the top two defensive pairing of Roman Josi, Ryan Elllis, P.K. Subban and Mattias Ekholm. This is such a brilliant move to bring in a veteran like Hamhuis who will provide so much support on the third defensive pairing. There aren’t many teams in the league with that luxury.

What is pretty remarkable about where Hamhuis is at in his career is there really hasn’t been a drop-off in production. He’s never been a big scorer, but his ruggedness and ability to log productive time on ice is what the Predators need from him. Even in his last two seasons in Dallas, Hamhuis didn’t regress.

We should expect Hamhuis’ time on ice to drop to a much lower number than he has ever seen in his career. This guy usually averages anywhere from 19 to 20 minutes per game. I see that number decreasing to around 15 minutes, maybe lower, due to being on the third pairing. However, his hit totals and blocked shots should remain efficient.

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The fact that Hamhuis knows his career is drawing to a close, it’s clear that he wants to get onto a team that can win a Stanley Cup. What better scenario than returning to the franchise that drafted you nearly two decades ago? This will be a perfect match for both parties, especially when the grind of the playoffs rolls back around.