Whenever a player lingers on the NHL free-agent market as long as Scott Hannan did, it is usually fair to say that his acquisition qualifies as a "strategic" signing for his new team.
Maybe he wasn't their No. 1 choice and maybe he wasn't even on the radar screen on July 1, when the market opened. But six weeks and the prospect of continued unemployment can change things for even the most accomplished of veterans used to making multiple millions per season.
So on Saturday, Hannan officially joined his third team in less than a year, signing a contract with the Calgary Flames for one year that will pay him a cap-friendly $1 million. Hannan will provide the Flames some veteran insurance on the blue line, in a year in which he went from the Colorado Avalanche to the Washington Capitals, where he wasn't re-signed following their second-round playoff exit.
In Hannan, the Flames get a poor man's version of Robyn Regehr, a player they dispatched to the Buffalo Sabres at the entry draft as a means of emerging from what general manager Jay Feaster then described as salary-cap hell. Hell had improved to purgatory over the summer, but with the Flames still largely nudged right up against the cap, they may need some further line-up tweaking before they put a line-up on the ice in October.
Apart from his willingness to work cheap, there is also this to consider: The 32-year-old Hannan is also not that far removed from his days as a bonafide, top-four shutdown defenceman and in Calgary, at his current salary, he likely will not be asked to play anywhere above the No. 5 role, on the third pair. Hannan is also durable, having missed only 11 games over the past nine seasons. In the early stages of his career, was in the conversation for Canada's World Cup and Olympic teams. That sort of pedigree, some 830 games into his NHL career, counts for something.
Calgary knows Hannan reasonably well from his Colorado Avalanche days and Hannan actually started his NHL career in the San Jose Sharks' organization along with goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff, playing for Darryl Sutter. Accordingly, the transition to Calgary for the B.C. native should be fairly smooth.
Traditionally, the best buys on the free-agent market tend to come between now and the start of training camp. For the kind of money they're paying him, on a team that had previously traded away Dion Phaneuf because his compensation was too high, Hannan represents a gamble well-worth taking.