New Jersey Devils agree to seven-year, $63 million deal with star defenseman Dougie Hamilton

The New Jersey Devils agreed to a contract with free-agent defenseman Dougie Hamilton on Wednesday, the team announced.

Hamilton, one of the top players in this free-agent class, signed a seven-year, $63 million deal with a $9 million average annual value.

According to team sources, Devils ownership was behind general manager Tom Fitzgerald's strategy of spending money this summer and wanted to show a commitment to improvement so that the team could play meaningful games toward the end of the season. The Devils have missed the playoffs in eight of the past nine seasons.

Hamilton, 28, had 10 goals and 42 points last season for the Carolina Hurricanes, who advanced to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. He has the size (6-foot-6, 227 pounds), defensive game and offensive numbers to be a No. 1 blueliner on any team in the league and can also contribute on the top power-play unit, needs that New Jersey clearly has as it continues its rebuild.

Last season, the Devils largely featured youth and inexperience on the blue line. The team has now brought in three defensemen, including Jonas Siegenthaler (acquired in a trade from Washington) and Ryan Graves (acquired via trade from Colorado earlier this month). But Hamilton, coming off a six-year contract with a cap hit of $5.75 million per season, should head right to the top of the depth chart. Though New Jersey also has former All-Star P.K. Subban on its roster at a hefty $9 million price tag, the veteran has just one more year remaining on that deal.

And Hamilton immediately becomes part of the Devils' overall core to build around. That group includes captain Nico Hischier, 22; center Jack Hughes, 20; goalie Mackenzie Blackwood, 24; and defenseman Ty Smith, 21. That collection will soon feature defenseman Luke Hughes, the younger brother of Jack, who was selected No. 4 overall in last week's NHL draft.

New Jersey has not made the postseason since 2018, when it lost in the first round to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Hamilton, who also has played for the Boston Bruins and Calgary Flames, has playoff experience and gives New Jersey the type of star power that many other clubs in its division and region have.

After signing Hamilton, the Devils traded Will Butcher to the Buffalo Sabres for future considerations, as the right side of the blue line became too crowded.

Hamilton was eighth in scoring among defensemen this season and has long been an analytics darling, pushing play and helping the Hurricanes dominate in puck possession. Since 2018-19, Hamilton has 52.3 expected goals scored above average, second among all defensemen.

In a news conference Wednesday, Carolina general manager Don Waddell said the team offered Hamilton an eight-year deal, though according to sources, the AAV was much lower than the $9 million Hamilton ended up receiving.

It's been a big week for young defensemen getting paid, and Hamilton's representation may have used previous deals to raise the bar. Seth Jones signed an eight-year deal with Chicago with a $9.5 million AAV. Miro Heiskanen signed an extension in Dallas with an $8.45 million AAV, and Cale Makar locked in a new six-year deal with Colorado that carries a $9 million AAV.