Cross Checks: Scott Hannan
A week before the trade deadline, I chatted with Nashville Predators GM David Poile and asked him about his approach this year.
He wasn’t sure yet. He said to check back after his team's game April 2, on the eve of the deadline.
He was only half-kidding, I think.
By moving Martin Erat and Scott Hannan on Wednesday, the veteran GM answered that question from the week before.
He was a seller -- kind of.
"I guess that’s fair, but sometimes you have to do things to take the proverbial step backwards to take a couple of steps forward," Poile told ESPN.com on Thursday.
The Preds were just a point out of a playoff spot Thursday morning in the cluster of the Western Conference standings. But two realities were at play before the deadline for Nashville: The Preds have been too inconsistent all season for Poile to be a buyer like he was the year before, when Nashville looked more the part of contender; and secondly, Erat asking for a trade forced his hand to move him.
In a perfect world, I suspect Poile would have just stood pat at the deadline.
"It’s a strange business," Poile said. “Sometimes you actually move forward by subtraction. Sometimes players aren’t quite fitting in, the chemistry isn’t quite there. So I’m looking at this as the right thing to do for our organization today, and I’m very optimistic for the future."
With the unhappy Erat gone, so is that distraction, although I think Poile wished Erat could have lived with waiting until after the season to settle this.
"I gave him 3-4 opportunities to make sure he didn’t feel the grass was greener somewhere else, but that’s what he wanted to do," Poile said. "He still felt he wanted to go in another direction. I was prepared to handle this in the summer versus now, but when the young player [Filip] Forsberg became available I thought it was the right thing to do."
Ah, yes, the young player Filip Forsberg, the Washington Capitals' first pick -- 11th overall -- in last June’s draft.
Judging by social media, Caps fans were none too pleased with seeing the young Swedish center shipped out for Erat and prospect Michael Latta.
And yes, perhaps GM George McPhee could have gotten more had he waited until the summer to shop Forsberg fully to the league. You see, I believe the Caps were going to trade Forsberg at some point no matter what, internally souring on the prospect, a player they no longer viewed as a top center in the making.
Scouts I’ve spoken with have mixed opinions. Some still view him as a top center in the making, at least a No. 2, but others are concerned by his foot speed. The latter is what concerned Washington.
We shall see who has the last word here. Forsberg may make the Caps rue the day they dealt him to Nashville. For that, we’ll have to circle back here in three to four years to rekindle this conversation.
In the meantime, here’s what happened. McPhee wasn’t going into the deadline thinking he would do anything. But Poile phoned him Tuesday and told him that Erat was available and that the Caps were one of the teams to which the player would waive his no-trade clause. From there, the trade conversation took shape, especially when Poile found out Forsberg was on the table.
Most of the reaction around the hockey world has been to pile on Washington in this deal, but I’m not so sure it’s such a bad trade. Certainly, I believe the Preds made the best of their situation with a player wanting out and getting a highly rated prospect in return. Poile did a great job.
But this could be a win-win deal. Erat is one of those players who, if he were playing in a bigger market all these years, would be more of a brand name. Fact is, the Preds just traded their top offensive forward to Washington. And unlike Jarome Iginla or Jaromir Jagr, Erat is not a rental player. He has two more years on his deal ($4.5 million cap hit). The Caps just got a top-six forward for at least two-plus years. Those don’t grow on trees.
Now, he has to perform, obviously. If he does, we may look back on this deal as not being quite as terrible for Washington as everyone is making it out to be.
One last note
There was a lot of chatter on social media Wednesday before the Caps trade was announced that perhaps they were in on Ryan Miller.
Sources in both organizations told ESPN.com that the Caps and Buffalo Sabres never spoke Wednesday.
That’s certainly not to say Miller won’t be moving this summer; that’s a story for another day. But in terms of the Miller-to-Washington chatter Wednesday? Just not true.
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.