Scott Hannan, Sean Bergenheim

With Capitals uninterested in bringing him back, Scott Hannan searches for new team

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When the Washington Capitals nabbed rugged defenseman Scott Hannan last November, many wondered if he could be the missing piece. With his grit and lengthy resume of NHL experience, it seemed like Hannan possessed the kind of grit that critics found lacking in an oft-criticized Capitals blueline.

Regardless of how you feel about Hannan’s individual performance, the Capitals’ playoff run ended like the others: with disappointment. It’s lousy – and if you ask me, wrong – to lay much of the blame at Hannan’s feet, but he wasn’t a magical elixir for Washington’s woes, either.

For many who watch the team closely, the Roman Hamrlik signing is the team’s attempt to find a Hannan upgrade. Hannan probably has a slight edge on Hamrlik in the physicality department, but Hamrlik isn’t shy to use a little ruggedness either. Even if that edge is big, Hamrlik is more responsible in his own end, is even more experienced and can contribute far more offensively as well. (Hamrlik has 624 points in 1,311 career regular season games; Hannan has 185 in 830.)

That being said, Hamrlik’s age could make him more prone to injuries, so would the Capitals consider keeping Hannan around as a depth player/insurance? It doesn’t sound like a bad idea at the right price, but Stephen Whyno reports that Hannan must look elsewhere for employment next season.

Scott Hannan never received an offer from the Capitals before July 1 and remains unsigned. His agent, Don Meehan, told The Washington Times in an email that he’s still working to secure an NHL deal for the veteran.

As for the posssibility of Hannan playing next season for the Caps, Meehan said flatly, “That won’t happen.”

Let me first admit this much: I’m not blown away by Hannan as a defenseman, at least when considering his bloated former price tag. That being said, the former San Jose Sharks defenseman might actually make some sense in the price and role of newly added Sharks defenseman Colin White.

Like White, Hannan is “economical,” which is a nice way of saying that he doesn’t have a wide range of talents but keeps his game simple and rugged. Both won’t wow you but can serve as decent depth defensemen who soaks up tough minutes. Hannan averaged a team-leading 2:40 shorthanded minutes per game last season, which is more impressive than it sounds because the Capitals PK was quite sound.

Some teams who may want to consider Hannan (if he’s OK with Colin White-type money)

  • New Jersey – Why not make this comparison come full circle by adding Hannan? White was too much at $3 million but his size and experience might be missed. (Kevin Sellathamby also brought up this idea.)
  • Montreal – Hamrlik replaced Hannan, so maybe Hannan could replace Hamrlik’s physicality while a hopefully healthy Andrei Markov could more than make up for the loss in offense? (Stan Fischler thinks Hannan might work in Montreal.)
  • Pittsburgh – Not the first team that came into my head (Mike Colligan’s idea), but a depth boost might be handy for a Penguins team that might have a lot of grinding in its future if Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin have health issues again.
  • Islanders – They could pay Hannan more than other teams since they need to reach the cap floor. Hey, he could even keep Evgeni Nabokov company, too. (Whyno brought this one up, although I doubt Hannan would get $4 million.)
  • Anaheim – The Ducks’ defense can use every bit of help they can get and Hannan probably wouldn’t mind living in California again.
  • Vancouver – Sure, their ideal add would be a top-six forward, but a lack of blueline depth is what doomed them in the Stanley Cup finals. If you think Boston bullying was an even bigger issue in that series, then Hannan could help a bit there, too.

Really, there are plenty of teams who could benefit from signing Hannan if his asking price isn’t outrageous. Maybe he wants to be within whispering distance of his bloated former salary, but the market should correct itself rather harshly this summer. If he can swallow his pride and take a Colin White-like salary, Hannan shouldn’t have too much trouble finding a job.

Rare wave of injuries for Capitals as Oshie, Orpik are also out

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 02: Matt Niskanen #2 of the Washington Capitals celebrates with teammate T.J. Oshie #77 after scoring a third period goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Verizon Center on March 2, 2016 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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The Washington Capitals have been outright dominant this season, but there’s one opponent they haven’t faced very often: injuries.

They’ve been healthier than everyone else to an almost spooky extent in 2016-17, yet it seems like they’re dealing with a rash of ailments for the first time in a while.

The injury list for tonight’s game against the Edmonton Oilers appears to be: Matt Niskanen, Andre Burakovsky, Brooks Orpik and T.J. Oshie.

We already knew that Burakovsky will miss some time and that Niskanen was injured after colliding knee-to-knee with Radko Gudas. Oshie and Orpik are bigger surprises as far as their lineup goes. It seemed like Oshie took some significant hits against the Flyers in that same game that injured Niskanen, so maybe that’s the issue there?

Here’s what the Capitals lineup will look like, via the team itself:

The team labels Oshie’s injury as upper-body related while Orpik and Niskanen have lower-body issues. On the bright side, those three are all considered day-to-day.

Riley Barber makes his debut with all of these injury absences.

Predators are a wild card in more ways than one

NASHVILLE, TN - FEBRUARY 21:  Filip Forsberg #9 of the Nashville Predators is congratulated by teammates after scoring a hat trick against the Calgary Flames during the second period at Bridgestone Arena on February 21, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
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The Nashville Predators have really earned the “wild card” moniker lately, even beyond holding the West’s first wild card spot.

Such a label could describe their up-and-down 2016-17 in general, and it might only intensify over the next few weeks.

Trade deadline players?

Nashville boasts Filip Forsberg, a guy with rare back-to-back hat tricks, not to mention other quality scorers such as James Neal, Ryan Johansen and diamond in the rough Viktor Arvidsson. (Their defensemen can produce points in buckets, too.)

But perhaps they can go from sporadically good to regular contender with that extra boost?

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman believes that the Predators could be in on talks to acquire Matt Duchene or “somebody big” at forward. Duchene, himself, might be tough to get:

That schedule, though

Honestly, the way their schedule looks, the Predators might need a shot in the arm.

Check out what they’re dealing with during the next few weeks:

Saturday: vs. Capitals
Sunday: vs. Oilers
Tuesday, Feb. 28: at Sabres
Thursday, March 2: at Canadiens
Saturday, March 4: vs. Blackhawks
Tuesday, March 7: at Ducks
Thursday, March 9: at Kings
Saturday, March 11: at Sharks
Monday, March 13: vs. Jets
Thursday, March 16: at Capitals
Saturday, March 18: at Hurricanes

That’s a rough mixture of tough opponents and road games, with even games against non-playoff teams being less than layups (the Hurricanes can beat you when they’re on point, for instance).

The Predators are in the first wild card spot. They’re also not far behind for the third seed in the Central, as the Blues hold a tiebreaker advantage over Nashville right now with both teams at 67 standings points.

That schedule could be an issue, however, for a team that’s been vulnerable to hitting highs and lows.

On the other hand, we’ve also seen hints of the dominant squad many penciled in as a possible contender in 2016-17. In a weakened West, the Predators remain a fascinating team to watch. That could be especially true in the near future.

‘Hawks nab Jurco in trade with Red Wings

Tomas Jurco
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The Chicago Blackhawks picked up some forward depth today, adding winger Tomas Jurco in a trade with the Detroit Red Wings.

In return, the ‘Hawks sent the Wings a third-round draft pick in 2017.

Jurco has only appeared in 16 games this season. He has no goals and no assists.

The 24-year-old was forced to undergo back surgery this past offseason.

“I could still play with it but the worst for me was sitting on the bench all the time,” Jurco said in November, per NHL.com. “Sometimes I’d have to get up and walk. Sometimes I’d stretch it. It was bad and I’ve been sitting a lot for the last couple of years on the bench. It was really tough but I’m glad it’s gone and I’m excited for a fresh start.”

A pending restricted free agent, Jurco’s cap hit is just $900,000.

In a corresponding move, the ‘Hawks assigned rookie forward Vinnie Hinostroza to the AHL.

Pre-game reading: On the urgency of the Caps, who won’t ‘be the same’ next year

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— Up top, Washington Capitals GM Brian MacLellan talks about the upcoming trade deadline. The way his team has been playing, it’s no surprise to hear he doesn’t expect to be very busy.

— The Caps are in the second year of a two-year window, and the urgency to finally win a Stanley Cup couldn’t be higher. Says MacLellan: “That doesn’t mean that going forward we’re not going to be good, but something’s got to give because of the roster we have. Something’s got to fall out, and I’m not sure what it’s going to be, but it’s not going to be the same.” (NHL.com)

— The Montreal Canadiens, no longer a sure bet to make the playoffs, are one of the teams eyeing Arizona center Martin Hanzal, reports Pierre LeBrun. Hanzal is a pending unrestricted free agent. The 30-year-old has 15 goals and 10 assists in 50 games this season. (TSN)

— Hockey history buffs will enjoy this story on Billy Coutu, a.k.a “Wild Beaver,” who was banned by the NHL for life after attacking a couple of referees in 1927. Coutu tried to resurrect his career in the minors, but with little success. (Sports Illustrated)

— Blackhawks rookie Nick Schmaltz stayed hot last night with a goal and an assist against the Coyotes. “I’m making more plays off the rush, in the zone,” he says. “I’m definitely more accustomed to playing this style and hopefully we can keep it going because I know that’s how the Blackhawks have played in the past. And it only helps our team game when every line is playing well.” (CSN Chicago)

— Tomorrow’s outdoor game in Pittsburgh is a big one for the Flyers — but not because of the spectacle of the event. To stay in the playoff race, Philadelphia badly needs the two points. “Honestly, it’s business first,” says head coach Dave Hakstol. “There is something to the event and certainly something important with family and the type of event it is. But, let’s be honest. Right now, it’s business first. That’s what our focus will be.” (CSN Philly)

Enjoy the games!