WASHINGTON – For years, Alex Ovechkin’s Washington Capitals have won games by outscoring opponents, and general manager George McPhee wanted to add an experienced, stay-at-home blue-liner to solidify the defence.
The Capitals hope Scott Hannan does the job. The 31-year-old Hannan waived his no-trade clause, allowing the Colorado Avalanche to send him to Southeast Division-leading Washington on Tuesday in exchange for forward Tomas Fleischmann.
“I’ve been counted on to be a defensive player and to kill penalties and to play against other teams’ top lines,” the six-foot-one, 225-pound Hannan said, essentially listing the very things the Capitals have been seeking. “I’ll be put in a defensive role there; I don’t think I’ll change that up too much.”
Hannan is in his 12th NHL season, most with the San Jose Sharks, who drafted him in the first round in 1997. He joined Colorado as a free agent in 2007, signing a four-year, US$18 million contract that expires after this season.
Fleischmann has four goals and six assists this season, his sixth in the NHL, all with Washington. He scored a career-high 23 goals in 2009-10.
Hannan said the Avalanche approached him Monday about agreeing to the trade. Colorado picked up 25-year-old defenceman Matt Hunwick in a deal with the Boston Bruins on Monday.
“It’s been no secret … they want to move … to a younger team,” Hannan said. “Going into the last year of your contract, things can happen like this. It’s part of the business.”
The Capitals will count on him—and his playoff experience—to help out young defencemen such as Karl Alzner and John Carlson.
With high-scoring players such as two-time NHL MVP Ovechkin, winger Alexander Semin, centre Nicklas Backstrom and defenceman Mike Green thriving under coach Bruce Boudreau’s go-go system, the Capitals do not have any trouble putting pucks in the net.
Where they do run into problems on occasion is preventing opponents from scoring, and this season, the Capitals are relying on a pair of 22-year-old goalies, Michal Neuvirth and Semyon Varlamov.
Entering Tuesday, the Capitals boasted the most points in the NHL and were second in goals scored with 86, but they also have allowed 68, which put them in the bottom half of the league.
Hannan is “at the point in his career where he’s been in the league a long time and wants to win a (Stanley) Cup, and I think it completes our defence. We’re really happy with the way our defence has been playing, but to add one more guy like this helps,” McPhee said. “Our defence moves the puck pretty well—we can generate offence from back there—but to have one more shutdown guy that can block shots, and do all the little things that make a difference, we thought was important to add.”
Hannan was going to fly to St. Louis on Tuesday night to meet his new team and attend his first practice Wednesday morning. McPhee wasn’t sure whether Hannan would play for the Capitals against the Blues on Wednesday night, or watch that game so he can get a sense of how Washington’s system works.