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Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Faceoff: Avalanche-Capitals trade

By Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun

Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun debate the trade that sent defenseman Scott Hannan to Washington and forward Tomas Fleischmann to Colorado.

Burnside: So, my friend, a real, honest to goodness hockey trade today with Colorado shipping veteran defenseman Scott Hannan to Washington for forward Tomas Fleischmann. Both can become unrestricted free agents at the end of the season and both should help their new teams, but the thing that sticks out for me is how much this reminds me of the Tampa Bay Lightning's pick-up of Darryl Sydor during the 2003-04 season. That was the only significant move made by the Bolts as they went on to win the last Stanley Cup before the lockout. I know people say Hannan's game has deteriorated since he was a rock for the Sharks back in the day, but he should fit in nicely with the Caps. Your thoughts on how Fleischmann fits in for the Avs?

LeBrun: Avs GM Greg Sherman keeps a low profile around the league but maybe he's out from under the radar now. In a league where there are almost no trades before Christmas, he's completed three in two weeks. I spoke with Sherman today, and he laughed when I suggested there should be some kind of award recognizing that feat given how tough it is to make trades in this system in the first half of the season.

"Certainly it's been busy, that's for sure," Sherman said with a chuckle.

Injuries forced his hand in all three cases as the Avs have been pilloried in that department. The Fleishmann deal comes just days after losing star winger Chris Stewart for four to six weeks. The blue line was also beat up, which is why Sherman went out and got Ryan O'Byrne and Matt Hunwick. But Sherman was quick to point out that while the injuries played a part, he had a long term view as well with these moves.

"I believe that this is a scenario through where we've improved our hockey club not now but also down the road," Sherman said.

"Certainly in all three cases, you have Tomas at 26, and O'Byrne and Hunwick in their mid-20s as well. So it's a positive situation for us."

So for the Avs, it's still about keeping with the young, growing team. But for the Caps, Scotty, it's about now!

Burnside: Having covered the Caps in their meltdown in the first round against Montreal last spring there were some obvious problems, starting with the power play, which Hannan won't get near with a 10-foot pole. But beyond that, winning a championship is all about the cast of leaders, not just one guy.

I think Hannan fills an important role on a Caps team that is still learning to win when it counts. Now Hannan hasn't won it all, either, but he's been around the block a few times and should be a valuable resource for Bruce Boudreau given how young the Caps' blue line is. As peerless PR man Nate Ewell pointed out after the trade, Hannan would have led the Caps in blocked shots each of the last four seasons and those leadership by example qualities are hard to come by in this league.

Fleischmann had seen his stock fall this season in part because the Caps have drafted so well. They have high hopes for rookie center Marcus Johansson, so it's not like they're leaving themselves short by moving Fleischmann, who will get better exposure in Colorado, I am guessing.

LeBrun: Fleischmann scored 23 goals last season, so the offensive talent is there. He joins a team in Colorado that leads the entire NHL in goals per game (3.52), and Sherman told me he thinks the slick forward will fit right in because of that up-tempo style in Denver.

"He's going to bolster our lineup for sure," Sherman said. "Three of our top six forwards right now are unable to play. He certainly fits right into the system that Joe runs, he fits our identity and fits in the type of game we've been playing."

Interestingly, while the timing with the Stewart injury might have been the final push for Colorado to pull the trigger for Fleischmann, a source in Washington told me Tuesday that talks between the two teams began in August.

In Hannan, Scotty, it'll be interesting to see if the Caps can re-discocver the San Jose version of himself. He was OK in Colorado, in my opinion, but much more impressive in his younger days as a Shark, so much so that he got an invite to play for a deep Team Canada at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey.

Burnside: Yes, people forget that Hannan was one of those shut-down defensemen that GMs and coaches drool over as shown by his whopper four-year deal that pays him $4.5 million annually. He's just 31 so it's not like he should be breaking down and, in fact, has been extremely durable given the physical style he plays.

And here's the interesting thing. While Washington GM George McPhee suggested on Tuesday that Hannan completes their defense, he's still got lots of cap room left in case he wants to go shopping at the trade deadline for some depth up front, especially down the middle. Can anyone say Brad Richards? It'll be interesting next spring to see if we look back on this day as a monumental moment for the team.

Likewise, it'll be interesting to see if the changes the Avs have made this week can keep them in the hunt in a tough conference.

LeBrun: Key in all this is that the Avs entered the season with one of the league's lowest payrolls and tons of cap room. That gave them more flexibility in trade talks, especially when the injuries hit.

"It's also the timing we're at as a franchise," Sherman said. "Our identity as being a young team, certainly the business side coincidences with that. We've just been fortunate to find [trading] partners where it works on both sides."

They've added three NHL players in the last two weeks but given up only one off their active roster. Impressive work. The Caps, meanwhile, perhaps learned a lesson from last season when they added a few rentals at the trade deadline. Those players didn't seem to gel with their new surroundings in time for the playoffs. Now Hannan has two thirds of a season to do so.

Scotty, we talked trade today! Be well my friend.