This surely wasn’t how Jannik Hansen thought his career post-Vancouver would play out.
Following a trade at the 2017 deadline to the San Jose Sharks, Hansen appeared to be a great depth addition to the Sharks. Although he didn’t set the world on fire, he did have seven points in 15 regular season games, before he was reduced to one assist in six playoff games.
No one knew it (except Peter DeBoer), but that was the beginning of the end of Hansen’s NHL career.
2017-18 played out and Hansen was often a healthy scratch, and never found a comfortable place to play in the lineup. His most common linemates were Chris Tierney and Mikkel Boedker. Both players are heading in different directions in terms of their NHL outlook, but the trio got shelled in terms of scoring chances at even strength.
After failing to find a suitor during free agency, it looks like the greatest Dane in Canucks history is bound for Russia.
Hansen is going on to join one of the KHL’s best teams, CKSA Moscow. CKSA beat out the favoured SKA St. Petersburg in the Gagarin Cup playoffs, before losing in the finals to Ak Bars Kazan. The team rosters highly touted prospects Kiril Kaprizov (Minnesota) and goalie Ilya Sorokin (New York Islanders). There’s a good chance that Hansen will fill the shoes of departed winger Valeri Nichuschkin, who will rejoin the Dallas Stars in 2018-19.
Why Hansen’s Predicament is Surprising
Hansen’s NHL career didn’t come to a slow gradual end, especially compared to someone like Alex Burrows. Instead, his career has come to a crashing halt. There should be little doubt that Hansen had more in the tank.
Even at 32 years old, Hansen is arguably one of the quickest players in the NHL, at least in his age cohort. Speed was always Hansen’s greatest asset, and he even found a better offensive touch in 2015-16 and in an injury-shortened 2016-17.
Between a lack of chemistry and a dislike from coach DeBoer, 2017-18 was a forgettable campaign. Still, the fact that no other team in the NHL found room to squeeze him in on a cheap one-year, $1 million deal is surprising. Unless Hansen was seeking out more money in the KHL, which is entirely possible, he should have been able to find an NHL gig.
I listed some possible suitors for him earlier in the summer, but by the end of July, make rosters had already taken shape.
Hansen will be missed in the NHL, most notably here in Vancouver. Just like Burrows, Hansen embodied the underdog. After being drafted in the ninth round in 2004, Hansen rose the ranks to become one of the most successful Danish hockey players of all time. He was a key complementary piece on the greatest Canucks team ever assembled, and slowly took on a leadership role as this team crumbled.
All the best to Hansen in Moscow. Chances are he finds success over there on one of the KHL’s best teams, even if he still has the talent to play NHL hockey.