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.

Kraft Hockeyville: Blues beat Penguins in tune-up for season-opener

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Much like Sunday night, the St. Louis Blues will visit the Pittsburgh Penguins for a game in Pennsylvania on Oct. 4. With that in mind, the more heated moments from tonight’s Kraft Hockeyville preseason match might be fresh on the minds of both teams when the games start to count.

In this case, the Blues carried the play from a variety of perspectives, including the final score of 4-1.

The Penguins got the first goal when Jake Guentzel finished a nice one-timer sequence set by Sidney Crosby and Conor Sheary, yet St. Louis was able to leverage its possession advantages to goals that beat Matt Murray up high.

The first one came from a familiar face in Vladimir Tarasenko, who aims for a Maurice Richard Trophy in 2017-18.

The game-winner was from 19-year-old Jordan Kyrou:

Paul Stastny then iced the game with a 3-1 empty-netter with a little less than 30 seconds remaining. Dmitrij Jaskin then made it 4-1 with a nice, patient score with Murray sprawling on the ice.

Carter Hutton deserves credit for a sharp win, but the final score didn’t do Murray’s alert evening justice, as the Blues fired 45 shots on him. This was probably the save of the contest:

While the Blues and Penguins wanted to be alert in this one, the stuff they might remember came down to rougher moments. Things started to escalate when Crosby mixed it up with Alex Pietrangelo.

As a preseason contest, some of this will likely be forgotten by veteran Penguins and Blues, but the people of Cranberry, Pa. and Belle Vernon, Pa. won’t soon forget the Kraft Hockeyville experience.

WATCH LIVE: Kraft Hockeyville featuring Penguins vs. Blues

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The Pittsburgh Penguins are set to host the St. Louis Blues to celebrate the latest edition of Kraft Hockeyville USA, with the game beginning at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

You can watch it online and via the NBC Sports App.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Find out more about Kraft Hockeyville winner Belle Vernon, Pa. in the video above this post’s headline (and also in this post). The game itself is taking place at UPMC Lemieux Sports complex in Cranberry, Pa.

NHL.com captures some of the spectacle, as about 2,000 fans showed up and players signed autographs during what sounded like a very fun event.

Speaking of very fun, all signs point to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin being among those players suiting up for the game itself.

Predators marvel at Fiala’s ‘beautiful’ work in preseason win

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Confession: It was difficult to shake the memory of Kevin Fiala‘s frightening injury from the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. If you need a reminder of the scary moment that ended what seemed like a breakthrough run, the video can be seen above this headline.

Another confession: personally, there’s been some concern about how well Fiala can bounce back, at least early on. One of the distinguishing characteristics of the young forward is his blazing speed; what if that’s been taken away from him?

Now, scoring two goals in the Nashville Predators’ 5-3 preseason win against the Columbus Blue Jackets doesn’t mean Fiala will avoid missing a beat in 2017-18.

Forgive Predators fans for getting excited, anyway, especially with goals like these.

Wow.

Filip Forsberg got borderline-romantic about what Fiala did on Sunday, and again, can you really blame him?

Again, the true tests for both Fiala and the Predators begin in October. Still, it’s better to look impressive at this time of the year instead of to go in slow (or injured, as the unlucky St. Louis Blues seem to be doing).

Gaudreau, other NHL players approve of crackdown on slashing

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When slash after slash broke one of Johnny Gaudreau‘s fingers, he called it part of the game.

The Calgary Flames winger known as “Johnny Hockey” is one of the NHL’s most marketable players, so broken bones should be a problem.

Slashing has become such a regular element in NHL games that it necessitated 791 minor penalties last season with countless more going uncalled. Gaudreau’s broken finger and Marc Methot‘s lacerated pinkie brought enough attention to the issue that the league is taking a stronger stand on flagrant slashing this year to cut down on injuries and obstruction.

“I think it’s tough for the refs to make those calls in games: You don’t really know how bad a slash is,” said Gaudreau, who sat out two and a half weeks after surgery to repair a fractured finger on his left hand. “But if they can harp down or look at it a little more closely, I think it might cause a little less injuries. Guys won’t be missing substantial time. I think it’d be huge.”

It was impossible to ignore slashing when Sidney Crosby sliced Methot’s finger open during a game in March, forcing the defenseman to miss three weeks. No penalty was called, and Crosby didn’t receive any supplemental discipline.

After members of the league’s competition committee recommended a closer look at slashing, officials have been instructed that it’s OK to call it more this season. NHL director of officiating Stephen Walkom said the rise in slashing over the past decade came about after the stricter enforcement of hooking and holding following the 2004-05 lockout with players finding new tactics to slow the game down.

“Players started slashing in between the hands and on the hands, and the whacking became hacking became something that became the norm in the game,” Walkom said. “It’s time to have a stronger enforcement to let the players know what they can and can’t do. If you’re going to be whacking a player’s hands six, eight feet from the puck, there’s a good chance that you’re going to be penalized if it’s seen by the officials on the ice.”

So many slashing penalties were called in the first few preseason games that it was somewhat comical. Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere understands slashing but said he doesn’t know if it should be a penalty when no one knows why the whistle was blown.

Walkom sent a note reminding referees that the intent was to focus on slashes around the hands, not every time a player’s stick hits an opponent in the heavily-padded pants. Slashing at players’ hands will not only be an area of emphasis on the ice but also from the league office where new vice president of player safety George Parros is watching closely.

The former enforcer said slashes delivered with greater force or directed at players’ fingers will be met with fines and/or suspensions.

“We’re going to try and change player behavior,” Parros said. “We’re certainly trying to get rid of a pattern of a certain type of slash. If that’s like a harder slash on the fingertips as opposed to maybe in the elbow pad or something, that might be something we look at. And if it’s a pattern of a certain type of location slash or if it’s a pattern of a player, we’re going to look to eliminate both of those.”

Reducing unnecessary injuries is just one piece of this tighter enforcement. As with the crackdown on the hooking, holding and interference that mucked games up in the late 1990s and early 2000s, fewer slashes should open the ice up for offensive players at even-strength and potentially lead to more power plays.

“In some ways it’s going to put even bigger premium on getting body position and not being stuck in a position where you have to reach for a guy,” Carolina Hurricanes forward Jeff Skinner said. “Usually that’s a positive sign for getting more opportunities to produce.”

St. Louis Blues coach Mike Yeo said he already noticed players slashing less often a few games into the preseason. That’s one of the intended consequences of calling certain types of slashes more.

“The players are the smartest people in the game relative to the game and they will adjust because nobody wants to sit in the penalty box,” Walkom said. “A lot of it’s reflex and habit, but the players will break old habits with a consistent enforcement.”

Old habits die hard, but it’s easier than healing broken bones.

Follow Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SWhyno

For more AP NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey