Hannan Brings Size, Grit, Experience to Capitals

Posted by Dave Nichols | Tuesday, November 30, 2010 | , , , , | 0 comments »

The Washington Capitals today traded forward Tomas Fleischmann to the Colorado Avalache for 31-year old defensive defenseman Scott Hannan, a man Alex Ovechkin once described as "the toughest defenseman to play against." 

Hannan, in his first words as a Capital, said he was "really excited, going to a team in first place with a great chance to make a run for the Stanley Cup."  Hannan waived a no-trade clause to come to D.C.

The 6'1", 225 left-handed stay-at-home defenseman was a piece to a puzzle GM George McPhee had been looking for for several seasons. 

"He's at the point in his career where he's been in the league a long time and wants to win a [Stanley] Cup, and I think it completes our defense," McPhee said. "We're really happy with the way our defense has been playing, but to add one more guy like this helps. Our defense moves the puck pretty well -- we can generate offense from back there -- but to have one more shut-down guy that can block shots, that can do all the little things that would make a difference, we thought was important to add."

Hannan was selected in the first round of the 1997 HNL Entry Draft by the San Jose Sharks, where he spent the first eight years of his career, building a reputation as a tough, gritty defenseman, willing to block shots and rough it up in the crease with the opponent's top forwards. 

He signed a four-year, $18 million free agent contract with the Colorado Avalache in 2007 (which expires at the end of this season), and some in the Denver media felt like he never lived up to the terms of the deal.

Hannan will count almost $3.2 million against the salary cap for the rest of the season, but, "We're in good shape," said McPhee.  "As I've said many times, we've managed our cap really well and it allows us to do a deal like this. He has an expensive contract but we have the room to do it."  Even taking on Hannan's contract, the Caps will still have significant room under the cap for future deals.

McPhee also indicated that the Caps have been trying to acquire Hannan since August.

Regardless of his contract status, Hannan is one of the most durable players in the NHL.  He has played no fewer than 75 games in a regular season since becoming a full-time player in the 2000-01 season, and has 73 playoff games to his credit.

The combination of size, strength and experience should be a boon to the Caps' back line.  The acquisition really bolsters a defensive corps that has seen its share of injuries already this season, with Tom Poti, Mike Green and Tyler Sloan all missing significant playing time.

It's easy to project Hannan playing with Poti on a pairing, allowing coach Bruce Boudreau to use John Erskine, who himself has stepped up his play this season, in more of a matchup role.  It also allows the Capitals to not have to rely on Sloan or Brian Fahey, player that have struggled as much as anyone that has pulled on a red sweater this season, as their injury replacements.

Fleischmann posted career numbers in 2009-2010, but disappeared in the playoff for the second straight season, and was a healthy scratch in the deciding game with the Montreal Canadiens in the first round last year.  He was re-signed in the off-season on a one-year deal, but has struggled this season in a  transition to center, prompting Boudreau last week to say, "He's a natural wing.  I think that's where he belongs." 

Fleischmann recorded just four goals and six assists in 23 games this season with the Caps after a 23-28-51 (+9) campaign in 2009-10.  He was a healthy scratch in Friday's shutout win over Tampa Bay, widely considered the Caps' most complete game of the season.