After a promising playoff debut in 2007, Jannik Hansen couldn’t seem to stay healthy long enough to improve on it. For two seasons, he drifted in and out of the Vancouver lineup, unable to play more than 60 games and failing, in consecutive years, to put together enough quality performances to argue that he was worthy of a long-term investment. This offseason, he only managed to avoid another one-year, two-way contract by taking the team to arbitration, where the award was guaranteed to be one-way. But Hansen still had to settle for a second one year, sub-seven figure deal.
That likely won’t happen a third time. This year, Hansen survived the entire campaign, and his long-awaited breakout season finally took place. Though the offense has yet to arrive (he failed to crack 10 goals for the third straight year), his other contributions were paramount: he led the team in hits, was first among wingers in takeaways, and became a staple on the Canucks’ third line and penalty kill. For his tireless work, he was named the team’s regular season “Unsung Hero”.
There appears to be no threat of a postseason regression, either, as Hansen put in a stellar performance in last night’s playoff opener. He was all over the ice, earning second star honours after registering four shots, five hits, and a breakaway goal (above). Unsurprisingly, it would appear his tight-checking, detail-oriented, defense-first game is tailor-made for the postseason.
Unfortunately, it’s also tailor-made to get noticed in the postseason, and Hansen is a restricted free agent.
The game changes in the postseason, and so do the things that get a guy recognized. Simply scoring a lot will earn one regular season fame, but in the postseason, one-way play is a one-way ticket to infamy. Playoff hockey is made for the two-way guys–guys like Jannik Hansen that play hard-nosed, tight, defensive hockey night in and night out. Suddenly, their inability to play pretty hardly matters. Nothing’s pretty in the playoffs. These guys just get it done.
A strong postseason outing from a depth guy means a prestige boost that can change the direction of his entire career. In previous years, guys like Sami Pahlsson, Maxime Talbot, Dave Bolland, Travis Moen, and Rob Neidermayer skyrocketed to fame following standout postseason performances as shutdown players or depth scorers when their star teammates got the shutdown treatment. Hansen appears poised to see a similar rise in notoriety.
None of this will surprise the Canucks. They’ve known for some time what they had in Hansen, but his bad luck and spotty play has worked to their advantage. He hasn’t had the stats to make much of an argument, and he couldn’t count on an offer sheet from another team; no one knew who he was. In truth, if he didn’t accept the flimsy deals offered him, he might have had to say goodbye to the NHL, and the Canucks knew it, so they hardly budged.
After two years of effectively having their way with him, the Canucks will likely be surprised at Hansen’s bargaining power this time around, especially if the team goes deep into the playoffs. If his play in Game 1 is any indication of what we can expect from him during an extended run, Hansen’s value is about to skyrocket. When that happens, the Canucks might have to try a little harder to keep him.
The passive approach to negotiations won’t work this offseason. Jannik Hansen will be a household name by the time the playoffs are over.Tags: arbitration, featured, Hansen, money money money, playoffs