The Washington Capitals have traded underachieving center/wing to the Colorado Avalanche for defensive defenseman Scott Hannan. The two teams have reportedly been in talks since August, and were finally able to get a deal accomplished. Both players are set to become unrestricted free agents after this season.
Trade rumors involving Fleischmann have been making the rounds since the trade deadline last spring. They heated up during the offseason, when it is believed that the fall through of a trade involving Fleischmann was the reason Eric Belanger ultimately was not re-signed by the team.
The Capitals had been wearing a little thin in defensive depth, and this trade allows them to feel more comfortable with that. Instead of having to rely on inexperience call-ups like Brian Fahey, the Caps will have an 11-year veteran to help pick up the slack.
Fleischmann had recently fallen out of favor with coach Bruce Boudreau. He has already been a healthy scratch in two games this year, and was also a healthy scratch in Game 7 of the Montreal series last spring after recording just one assist and a minus-1 rating in the first six games. After a career year in goals, assists, and points (23-28-51) in 69 games in 09-10, Fleischmann has only recorded four goals and six assists for 10 points in 23 games this year.
Hannan is known as a shutdown, defensive-minded defenseman. Over the last couple of years, the Caps have let a lot of defenseman leave the team either to free agency or via trade. This year, their most experience blue liner is Tom Poti at 33, and Hannan coming at age 31 adds much needed experience on a team with a second D pairing of 21 and 22-year-olds. Hannan would have led the Caps in blocked shots in each of the last four seasons.
Hannan’s contract includes a no movement clause that he waived in order to be traded to the Capitals. He is set to make 4.5 million dollars this year, meaning the Capitals lost cap space in the deal. However, the team still has just under 2.34 million in cap space left, meaning that there is still room to make another move.
GM George McPhee mentioned that the Caps have been looking for this kind of player for 3-4 years, and with this acquisition out of the way, the organization will likely now turn its attention to getting a solid center. The Capitals still have questions in that position, although Marcus Johansson has been fitting into the second-line role rather well the last few games. The third-line center has been a rotating position, and expect to see prospects Mathieu Perreault and/or Andrew Gordon get looks there throughout the remainder of the season.
The “winner” of this trade is not clear from the outset. On paper, both of these players improve each of their new teams. However, the game isn’t played on paper, and it will be interesting to see if Fleischmann can still produce without being surrounded by the talent he had in Washington. Both teams got what they needed out of the deal, and for the Capitals, this was a trade made for the playoffs. While the trade seems to be positive for both teams, only time will tell if this proves to be a piece of the Caps' Stanley Cup puzzle.
(also at thehockeywriters.com)