Baggie Day Buzz: Hamilton may have played for Devils in Stanley Cup Playoffs

New Jersey Devils

Dougie Hamilton, who missed the last 62 games of the season following surgery for a torn left pectoral muscle Dec. 1, said he may have been able to return if the Devils had qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

“I’ve been skating and stuff, so the plan was kind of to target playoffs,” the defenseman said Wednesday. “But unfortunately we don’t really have that chance. It was hard not being out there with the guys, win or lose, going through it with them. It definitely makes you realize you can’t take things for granted. Now I think just trying to get healthy and be the best player I can be come next September or October.”

Hamilton was injured during the second period of a 5-4 win against the New York Islanders on Nov. 28. He was a fixture on a power-play unit that was converting at a 36.8 percent efficiency through 20 games before his injury. Without him, New Jersey was 28th in the NHL at 17.0 percent in 62 games (28-30-4).

“It’s definitely not easy not being able to be there for your team,” Hamilton said. “Everyone will be working hard to get better for next year. We had that feeling last year; it’s a lot of motivation to be able to try to replicate what we had compared to what we did this year.”

New Jersey (38-39-5) finished seventh in the Metropolitan Division this season after qualifying for the playoffs in 2022-23, when they had the most wins (52) and points (112) in their history.

“I was hoping to be back this season and not being able to is hard because now we’ve got to wait five more months or whatever,” Hamilton said. “I’ll definitely be very excited come October.”

Hamilton, who has four seasons remaining on a seven-year, $63 million contract ($9 million average annual value) he signed as an unrestricted free agent July 28, 2021, had 16 points (five goals, 11 assists) in 20 games this season. The 30-year-old has 120 points (36 goals, 84 assists) in 164 games with the Devils. — Mike G. Morreale

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