The Best Free Agent Signings of the Offseason, And Why the Sharks Should Have Signed Them, Part 3

In this series of articles, I will be taking an in-depth look at what I consider to be the 20 best value free agent signings of the offseason, in no particular order. For each signing, I will first detail what makes the signing a good one from a neutral perspective, and then I will discuss why the signing would have benefitted the Sharks (at the same contract terms unless others are discussed). There is no guarantee these players would have even come to the Sharks, in fact in some cases it is doubtful, but we find it interesting to analyze signings made this offseason through a Sharks lens. Enjoy!

If you missed the other six parts of the best offseason signings series, you can check them out here. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6.

Now for Part 3.

Age. 31. Height. 6’1″. Weight. 193 lbs. Shoots. Left.
Contract. 2 years, 7M, Los Angeles Kings.
2010-2011 Stats. 63GP, 17G, 40PTS, -12 plus/minus, 20PIM.

When healthy, Gagne is a fast, slick top six winger with good hands and hockey sense. You could characterize his style of play as midway between Patrick Marleau and Mason Raymond. At 31 years of age, he remains one of the league’s fastest and more skilled scoring wingers. However, there is a rub. Gagne has seldom been completely healthy of late, having played no more than 63 games in either of the last two seasons, so signing him always comes with a risk. But teams keep signing him anyway, which must mean there is also the potential for reward, and there is. Although last season’s injury riddled campaign was a down year statistically for Gagne, he is still capable of potting 30 goals in a healthy season, and a 3.5M cap hit for that type production and all-around play is a good deal.

Contingent upon Gagne showing no signs of lingering health problems during a physical exam, adding him to the Sharks could have proved a quality move. The Sharks seemed to lack team speed during the Western Conference Finals last postseason compared to their very fast opponent, and Gagne brings speed and skill in spades. He has also shown a knack for coming up big in big games throughout his career, which could have benefited the Sharks in the playoffs if he’d kept up that clutch play.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the Sharks lost one of their shooters, Devin Setoguchi, in the Brent Burns trade. Gagne would have been an affordable way to replace Setoguchi’s speed and production, while also offering superior all-around play. In short, a healthy Gagne is a measurably better player than Setoguchi, and his cap hit is only 0.5M more than Setoguchi’s. He would have improved the Sharks forward scoring depth, and replaced some of the “sniper” qualities the Sharks lost when they traded Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi. It is always a risk when you sign a player with a history of injuries, but I believe that Gagne’s potential when healthy, combined with his low 3.5M cap hit, justifies that risk in this case.


Age. 32. Height. 6’1″. Weight. 225 lbs. Shoots. Left.
Contract. 1 year, 1M, Calgary Flames.
2010-2011 Stats. 81GP, 1G, 11PTS, +4 plus/minus, 28PIM.

Scott Hannan is a defensive defenseman who makes smart reads and decisions, and plays a very good positional game. His mobility is above average for a defensive defenseman, and certainly more than sufficient for him to perform his stopper role well. He defends well both in open ice and along the boards against bigger forwards. He does not proactively seek out hard hits as often as he did pre-lockout, but he can still handle it better than most when hard hits seek out him. In other words, he is still a gritty defender, he’s just traded some of his physicality for a more complete game.

A good example of Hannan’s ability came in his last postseason appearance two seasons ago. Hannan rose to the challenge of playing for an injury ravaged Avalanche team, and stood out as their only defender capable of consistently stifling the Sharks strong attack. Hannan even managed a +3 plus/minus rating in his team’s six-game losing effort, which indicates how well he performed. Now, only 14 months later, Hannan was available for 1M on a one-year deal, only 0.45M above the minimum. For a defender who can excel in many roles, from a plus third pairing guy to being the anchor for a team’s top offensive defenseman, and who can penalty kill, that’s a bargain. That’s why Scott Hannan’s signing by the Calgary Flames two weeks into August is one of the offseason’s best.

I’ve already been over why I believe Scott Hannan is a good defenseman, but if my opinion does not hold much merit, it was George Mcphee, GM of the Washington Capitals, who last season traded the young, up and coming Tomas Fleischman to acquire Scott Hannan at three times the cap hit (pro-rated) he is making now. Mcphee clearly thought Hannan was worth that high cost as recently as last season. So what’s changed? Why weren’t there many teams interested in offering Hannan a better contract this offseason than the one he eventually got from the Flames?

In my opinion, not much has changed, actually. Hannan did not turn 40 last month, or even 35. He is still just 32. To offer up some context, Dan Boyle was 32 and coming off a significant injury when Doug Wilson traded Matt Carle and a 1st round pick to get him with six more seasons and over 40M guaranteed dollars left on his contract. And Doug Wilson himself called it a hometown discount. And so far it has been! Hannan is 32 and completely healthy–in fact he hasn’t played less than 70 games in a season since 1999, and he was available for 1M. Imagine that discount.

So really, there is no reason to believe Hannan is on the decline at all. I think all that changed last season is he was traded to Washington, and it didn’t work out as planned. He didn’t play poorly by any means, but he wasn’t at his best. But that’s all it was. It just wasn’t a fit. It does not mean this player who various GMs recently valued at 3M – 4M suddenly isn’t a good player anymore, to the point where he’s not even worth a one-year deal for 1M, which is also what the Sharks gave Jim Vandermeer. That’s just not the case.

So if Scott Hannan can get back to playing at the top of his game, that begs the question, which two players would you pick out of Jim Vandermeer, Colin White, and Scott Hannan? All are signed to identical contracts. My answer, I would pick Colin White and Scott Hannan. Scott Hannan is a better penalty killer than Vandermeer. Scott Hannan is more versatile. He has better hockey sense, and makes better defensive reads and decisions than Vandermeer. He just has that coveted combination of grit, sufficient mobility, and positional ability that every team looks for in their stoppers. In my opinion, Hannan is better than Vandermeer in most areas, which makes him the better defenseman. And because they are both on identical contracts, being the better defenseman also makes Hannan a better deal. That is why I believe the Sharks should have signed him instead of Jim Vandermeer.


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Written By Shark Circle

Further Reading.
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6. of our series on the offseason’s best signings.
A look at potential new NHL rules for next season, with our analysis.
Analysis of the Winnipeg Jets signing of ex-Shark Kyle Wellwood.