With the Collective Bargaining Agreement formally ratified, the narrow window for players to officially opt out of returning to play is now open.
Calgary Flames defenseman Travis Hamonic has become the first player to do so as he released a statement through his agency, Titan Sports 365 (Twitter link), indicating he will not be participating due to family reasons.
Hamonic's daughter has had a previous battle with a life-threatening respiratory virus and Hamonic has a new baby boy as well, so he is erring on the side of caution.
Following the announcement, Flames GM Brad Treliving issued the following statement:
"Earlier this evening Travis called me to inform us that he has decided to opt out of the NHL Return to Play Program. Travis explained that due to family considerations, he has made the difficult decision not to participate in the Stanley Cup Qualifier and Playoffs. While we will miss Travis in our lineup, we understand and respect his decision. Our focus remains on preparation for training camp and our upcoming series in the NHL Qualifying Round."
Hamonic’s absence will be a notable one as, when healthy, he is one of Calgary’s most effective blueliners. He logged more than 21 minutes per game this season, including a team-high 3:06 per night on the penalty kill on a unit that was inside the NHL’s top 10.
The Flames' trade deadline additions of defensemen Derek Forbort and Erik Gustafsson becomes even more important now from a depth perspective, especially with the potential hesitance to bring back defenseman Juuso Valimaki, who recovering from knee surgey.
As for Hamonic, the 29-year-old has now played his final game before being eligible to hit unrestricted free agency in October. Opting out shouldn’t hurt Hamonic's market at all as his reputation of being a strong stay-at-home defender is well-known and earned. He should still be among the second tier of defensemen to garner considerable interest this offseason.