Welcome to Caps 'Round the Clock, a blog covering the Washington Capitals and the NHL. In season, I update the Blog after every practice and on game day with Caps news and information, and then provide a recap and analysis after each contest. I also write a periodical Prospect Watch and weekly feature pieces on the state of the Men in Red and other things Capitals. And of course, I will post videos and tidbits from around the League and offer my two cents as the season wears on. In the offseason, I write a Report Card for each player, and will keep you updated on all the news about the Caps through the summer. I'm glad you're here, and hope you come back!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Why the Caps Should Not Re-Sign Scott Hannan

This offseason, decisions will be made.  There is no doubt about that.  Several of these decisions are going to be very difficult to make for George McPhee, and in all likelihood, the Capitals are not going to able to retain all of their free agents, both restricted and unrestricted. In a salary-capped NHL, it is simply impossible to keep teams together for long periods of time.  As such, on July 1st at 12:00 AM ET, eight Caps will be become free agents: two restricted and six unrestricted.

Among those unrestricted will be defenseman Scott Hannan, who the Capitals acquired in late November from the Colorado Avalance for forward Tomas Fleischmann.  Hannan got off a brutal start with his new team as he joined the Caps right as their eight-game losing skid began, but ever since January he has been one of DC's best and most reliable defensemen, only behind John Carlson and Karl Alzner.  Hannan played big minutes on the penalty kill and at even strength and he was a key cog in the transition from offense first to defense first. Not only that, but he was also a veteran leader in what was then a mostly young and inexperienced locker room.
Despite these many overwhelming positives that Hannan brought this past season, I am of the opinion that the Capitals should led him go when the clock strikes midnight on July 1, and not aggressively pursue his services on the free agent market.
Why, you ask?
The Capitals would have an absurd logjam on the back end if they were to re-sign Hannan.  Assuming George McPhee locks up Karl Alzner, who is a restricted free agent (which he MUST), the Caps would have eight NHL-caliber defensemen under contract next year if they brought Hannan back.  These players are Tom Poti, John Erskine, Dennis Wideman, Alzner, Jeff Schultz, Mike Green, John Carlson, and Hannan himself.  Tyler Sloan is under contract next year as well; whether he is NHL caliber is the topic of some debate.  
If Poti isn't healthy, which there is no guarantee he will be, having Hannan around would presumably force John Erskine into the role as the primary healthy scratch along with Sloan.  Now John Erskine is no Norris Trophy candidate, but he is coming off a career year in which he set personal bests in almost every significant statistical category.  And those number don't take into account his team-first attitude and his willingness to fight, which can never be undervalued. To complicate things even further, the Caps extended him through the 2012-2013 season at $1.5 million per over the winter, so it's not fair to him to have him sit every night and become a part-time player.
But if Poti is healthy, he's going to play, because he's a good defenseman, arguably better than Hannan.  That would mean that the likely candidate to join Erskine and Sloan in the press box on a nightly basis would be Jeff Schultz. I have had my rage against "Tree Man" well documented in the past, but the fact of the matter is that he is a solid NHL defenseman despite his occasional and often poorly timed adventures with the puck.  He can block shots and kill penalties, he's not useless at even strength, and he is not usually a liability in his own zone. And he, too, was extended last year; Sarge has three more years at $2.75 million per left on his contract.  He's not going anywhere.

Logjam arguments aside, Hannan is probably going to require a multi-year deal in the range for $2.5-$3.5 million per, wherever he ends up.  With about $9 million in cap space left for next season and eight players without contracts, Washington simply cannot afford this, especially with the wealth of bodies they have on the blue line (and top prospect Dmitry Orlov wasn't even mentioned in this post).  The money would be much better spent on Brooks Laich and Boyd Gordon, two extremely valuable and flexible players who are respected leaders, play big penalty kill minutes, and can win faceoffs (Gordo) and score (Brooksie), but more on this later.  
Put simply, the Caps are running out of money, and an extension to Hannan would not be spending it wisely.  This is not to say that I want Hannan gone, or having him wouldn't be ideal, because it would be.  But the other contracts the Caps have on defense make it very unlikely that we see it happen.


  1. Jeff Shultz may not even be a AHL caliber defense. He's horrible plain and simple. If it were any other team he wouldn't have a chance at cracking the starting line-up. The Caps D is as weak as it gets in the NHL.

  2. I don't expect Poti to be back. Sloan would work as an AHL callup but he's not NHL caliber. I'd happily move Schultz if it would let us sign Hannan. Though I'd give em both up for a SAH with size that's not afraid to use it. I'd like Sarge better if he was 5'9" and played the way he does. With his size he should be able to be more of a physical presence than he's ever been.

  3. This isn't an assessment of what we should want to do. It's an assessment of reality based on contracts. Of course I would love to move schultz to keep hannan. but there is almost no chance that it happens.

  4. I think you are overestimating Hannan's value on the open market. If teams were not already aware that he had lost a step before he came to the Caps, after all the foot races he lost in the last six weeks, the whole league knows it now. The intangible value of a veteran asset in the lockerroom is balanced by what he is physically capable of doing on the ice. He's lost a few steps and while he's could get a multi-year deal, he's not going to get $2.5M/year from anyone. He just can't move anymore.

  5. Okay, say he gets 2 from the caps. Boyd Gordon gets around 1-1.5, and Brooks, who we have to keep, gets 3-3.5. that's 6-7 of 9 mil gone, with the current cap structure. If we trade semin, the problem goes away. but right now, there is just no money. none.

  6. The Canucks have an NHL caliber D. That's the goal. Not Jessica Schultz and Tammy Poti.

  7. My only problem with this post is it is reliant on Poti being healthy and McPhee not making the obvious choice and sending Sloan to the Bears; two assumptions that I think are misguided.

    If Poti is healthy next year, which given the information we have seems quite unlikely, I think the Caps would be better served retaining Hannan or acquiring a defenseman of a similar style, and trading Wideman. I say this not because I wasn't impressed with Wideman's play before his injury (I really was), but because he and Poti are too redundant to have on the same roster and there is no way McPhee will find a taker for Poti and his new contract. Wideman has an expensive contract, probably twice what it will cost to retain Hannan, and with Carlson, Green, and Poti we would have a puck moving defenseman on every pair.

    I think the most likely scenario is that Poti goes on LTIR, Hannan (or a player like him) gets signed, and Sloan goes to the AHL with his name on top of the call-up list (no way the guy gets claimed). That leaves Erskin as the 7th defenseman, not completely fair but considering how common injuries are he should still play 40+ games, and will be there to turn up the heat on players like Shultz.

  8. What't your point? we can't just not pay them and keep Hannan. that's not how it works.

  9. Yeah...this is a very sobering post. I would argue Hannan has been our steadiest, most reliable D (him and Alzner anyway) and I think he is even better than Poti when healthy.

    That said, McPhee has backed us into a corner by foolishly handing our multi-year contracts to Poti, Schultz and Erskine. At least Schultz is young, and not too expensive...but the Poti contract is an anchor. 3 years at 3 mil for a 34 year old defenseman who has always been injury-prone? That was an awful decision.

    I'm personally hoping we can somehow rid ourselves of Poti or Schultz, or maybe even Green (who can't play defense when it counts). I really like having someone as reliable Hannan.

  10. Tyler - all of what you said is ideal. I just want to stress that this is NOT what I think is best or what I want to happen. It's the reality that we have these contracts and we can't just get rid of them. the money just isn't there. it sucks, but if poti is healthy, we have to play. Wideman shouldn't go anywhere. the money needs to go to the forwards. we also have Orlov

  11. Hannan is going to require at least 2.5 a year on the open market.

  12. The problem with this article is the sunk-cost bias. Erskine is not top-6 caliber, at least not on a (theoretical) Stanley Cup contender. It was a bad decision on McPhee's part to give him that extension, and now the Caps have to accept that and move on. Schultz, too, was overpaid, but as you said, he is not a daily liability. Defensemen who get into fights because that is their greatest asset are liabilities. You never want a situation where you have to play with 5 guys on the blue line for five minutes or more. We have Hendricks, King, and (maybe) Bradley for that role. The Caps have to accept that GMGM is fallible, and has made mistakes, especially on the blue line. It is far past time to move on.

  13. Boush, everything you wrote is correct, except the fact that erskine is not a top six NHL d-man. the lightning, bruins, canucks, sharks, and red wings all have defensemen who play who are not better than erskine (M-A bergeron and others, andrew ference, andrew alberts, niclas wallin, jon ericsson) who play substantial minutes for them as a sixth defenseman. Erskine is a fine player to have. People praise hendricks for fighting, but not erskine? that makes no sense too.
    Nowhere in my article did I suggest that George McPhee is a genius, nor that he has never made mistakes. Of course I would like Hannan back over erskine. but that's just not possible. please read what I write before you attack what I write.