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Yesterday, Joe posted an emotional plea to cut bait with some of the dead weight the Avalanche have been carrying around. While I'm not quite ready to see them wave the white flag myself, I agree that the team could use a bit of a shakeup in the personnel department.

One name on his chopping block surprised me, though: Scott Hannan. Although the comments to that thread are now locked away somewhere, it seemed like more than a few of you agreed with Joe's humorous assessment of Hannan:

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"For a guy billed as a tough stay-at-home defenseman, he plays like he's got Patrick Kane's tiny frame and half the courage. The Avs made a mistake. Send him back to San Jose."

I have a much higher opinion of Hannan. Yes, I know all about the lousy start to the season. He was -15 through the first 26 games and looked completely lost in his own end (and will never, ever be confused with Paul Coffey offensively). Since then, though, he's a +8, tied with his partner Jordan Leopold for tops among Avs defensemen. Sure, plus/minus has the statistical relevancy of Jessica Simpson's acting career, but those numbers do verify what I've seen on the ice: Hannan has been very good defensively.

No, he's not been the most physical of players. Not that we should have expected Chris Pronger; Hannan had just 29 recorded hits last year. He's already at 43 with the Avs - a team that is notorious for sucking the physicality out of defensemen when they join our squad - and has more than a couple big hits to write home about (his sad play Monday where he stood idly by as Kirk Maltby took a swipe at Jose Theodore notwithstanding). He blocks shots (2nd on the team), eats up the most even strength minutes (nearly two more minutes than anyone else) and has been solid as one of our top penalty killers. In short, I've been very happy with Hannan.

I know that one of the arguments against Hannan is the money. Is he worth $4.5 million?

For kicks, here's a list of defensemen making $4 or more (courtesy of nhlnumbers.com):


  1. Lidstrom $7,600,000

  2. Chara $7,500,000

  3. Niedermeyer $6,750,000

  4. Redden $6,500,000

  5. Timonen $6,333,000

  6. Pronger $6,250,000

  7. Souray $6,250,000

  8. Rafalski $6,000,000

  9. Blake $6,000,000

  10. Markov $5,750,000

  11. Schneider $5,625,000

  12. Hamrlik $5,500,000

  13. Gonchar $5,000,000

  14. McCabe $5,000,000

  15. Johnsson $4,850,000

  16. Foote $4,600,000

  17. Hannan $4,500,000

  18. Norstrom $4,250,000

  19. Brewer $4,250,000

  20. Kaberle $4,250,000

  21. Aucoin $4,000,000

  22. Zubov $4,000,000

  23. Whitney $4,000,000

  24. McKee $4,000,000


While 17th-highest paid does seem a bit high, there's some other things to consider here. Two players - Dion Phaneuf and Sergei Zubov - have signed extensions that will vault them ahead of Hannan next year. Two others - Brian Campbell and Dan Boyle - are free agents this summer and will certainly do the same. Robyn Regehr will also vault into the $4 million club next year. I'm sure there are others, but that's not important right now. My point is that next year Hannan won't even be in the top 20 in salary, and will slip even further down before his 4-year deal is up. While he may seem overpaid now, I think by the end of his deal we'll be looking at his salary as a tremendous bargain, especially if he continues to play as he is now.

Of most interest to me is the performance of some of the other UFAs from last summer who signed similar deals - Brad Stuart and Roman Hamrlik. Along with the injured Sheldon Souray, Hannan, Stuart and Hamrlik were the three defensemen most mentioned as potential "gets" for the Avs this summer. Stuart signed a $3.5 million deal with the Kings. He currently has 4 more points than Hannan and is a -16 (to Hannan's -7). Hamrlik has 3 more points and is +2 all for just $1 million more than Hannan. Oh, and those guys both play on the powerplay - Hannan has more even strength points than both of them. And that's just on offense. Defensively, I don't think it's even close - Hannan is head's and shoulders above those guys. He may not be the shutdown defensemen people thought we were getting (as you can see from the list, there aren't too many of those out there). In my book, though, we got the right guy.