The Flames have been one of the quieter teams in free agency this year, mostly re-inking their own pending UFA’s and little else. In fact, Jay Feaster’s one year, $1 million signing of Scott Hannan on Saturday probably stands as the club’s biggest off-season acquisition.
Hannan arrives as a bargain replacement for the departed Robyn Regehr, who with Ales Kotalik was dealt to Buffalo at the draft in exchange for Chris Butler and Paul Byron. The Regehr swap freed up some cap space for the Calgary organization, but also created a large hole in their blueline depth. A lifelong Flame, Regehr had been the club’s shut-down defender of choice for the last decade, facing the toughest opposition available nightly. Aside from Jay Bouwmeester, no other remaining Flames defender had that sort of experience on their resume (aside for Cory Sarich, but he hasn’t been a legitimate shut-down option for years).
Enter Scott Hannan. Like Regehr, Hannan has next to no offensive upside, but has also handled the toughest circumstances for most of his career. Over his last two seasons in Colorado, no defender played a more difficult role. He faced the best opposition and he started from his own zone the most frequently. He was derided as over-the-hill and doddering by the end of his tenure as an Avalanche, but it’s entirely possible the difficulty of his assignment plus the overall mediocrity of the club soured perceptions of his abilities as a matter of course.
The data and impressions from Washington a far more positive. Stephen Pepper of the Japer’s Rink examined Hannan’s season in May, concluding:
Brought into the fold by General Manager George McPhee to “complete [the Caps'] defense,” Hannan spent the most time on the penalty kill amongst all Caps defenders in 2010-11 (including 23 GP as a member of the Avs), while the team vaulted into the second-best PK% in the circuit (after a 25th-best showing in 2009-10). While his full-season GAON/60 at 4-on-5 suggests a middle-of-the-road penalty killing effort, 12 of the 20 power play goals against suffered by his team occurred while he was on the kill for Colorado. Taking only his performance as a Capital in 2010-11 into account, he finished at nearly the best amongst Caps blueliners in that key statistic.
Hannan was solid at even strength during the regular season in a Caps’ sweater as well, assembling two separate streaks of more than 10 contests in which he avoided a minus rating. And while suffering a minus-9 during the Caps’ eight-game skid in December, which coincided with his arrival in D.C., Hannan finished the rest of the season with a plus-11 rating.
In addition, Neil Greenberg of The Russian Machine Never Breaks collated scoring chance data for the Capitals last year. According to Greenberg, Hannan’s scoring chances for-to-against ratio was a solid 0.559 or 56% for Washington in 55 games played. Whatever his supposed weaknesses, clearly Hannan didn’t sink things when he was playing for the Capitals.
The deal stands as an excellent one for Feaster and the Flames. The club gets a reasonable facsimile of Regehr who is both younger (32-years old) and a quarter of the price. The low cap hit and brief term also means Hannan is next to no risk: at $1 million, he is the sixth more expensive defender on the roster – cheaper even than Chris Butler ($1.25 million/year). As such, Hannan will provide value for the dollars even if he only plays in the third pairing. If he continues to be a top-four, tough minutes option, however, the Flames win big with this deal.