The Washington Capitals are toughening up the blue line. The Caps traded frustrating centerman Tomas Fleischmann to the Colorado Avalanche for physical defenseman Scott Hannan.
When Fleischmann is on his game, he’s an instant injection of offense to the lineup. Last season, Fleischmann broke out during the regular season with 23 goals and 28 assists. When the playoffs came around, Fleischmann struggled and earned the ire of many Caps fans for being a soft player unwilling to get into the dirty areas to score and battle for pucks. He’s a fast skater though and in Colorado he’ll fit in fine with Joe Sacco’s speed attack system. He’ll also help fill in offensively while Chris Stewart is out the next 4-6 weeks with a broken hand.
When the Avalanche acquired defenseman Matt Hunwick from Boston yesterday, it gave the Avs quite the logjam on the blue line, injuries or not. Losing Hannan will allow Ryan O’Byrne to pick up the slack defensively and with Kyle Quincey back in the lineup and Adam Foote’s return on the horizon, Hannan was the odd man out. Having a salary cap hit of $4.5 million also makes his departure more sensible. Hannan did have a no-trade clause in his contract, but waived it to go to the Capitals.
For the Caps, Hannan is just the kind of guy they need on the back line. Hannan is a prototypical defensive-defenseman. He’s positionally sound, delivers thumping hits on occasion and isn’t afraid to mix things up with forwards that get a bit too daring crashing the net. Hannan also comes with the full approval of Alexander Ovechkin who once referred to Hannan as the “toughest defenseman to play against.”
This is a deal that, on paper, looks to be a winner for both sides. Hannan’s results won’t be noticeable for the team until it’s time for the playoffs. He’s a guy that’s meant to be a problem solver for the team when dealing with the likes of Sidney Crosby and Mike Richards. Fleischmann steps into an immediate need in the short term for Colorado and gives them an older presence amongst a pack of very young forwards. Fleischmann isn’t old himself, but he’s had more NHL time than a lot of guys they’ve got. It’s fun to see a deal like this work out for both sides but we’ll see if Scott Hannan is the answer the Caps need on defense and if Tomas Fleischmann can find his scoring touch again in Denver.