SAN JOSE – Many players on the Sharks roster are plenty familiar with the way that Jannik Hansen approaches the game.
The 30-year-old forward, acquired by the Sharks on Tuesday evening for prospect Nikolay Goldobin and a conditional fourth round draft pick, has spent the first nine-plus seasons of his NHL career in the Sharks’ division in Vancouver, playing 29 career regular season games against San Jose and another nine in the postseason.
While Hansen has the ability to contribute offense, with 105 goals and 235 points in 565 career regular games, he can’t be judged on stats alone. Hansen is one of those guys that plays a gritty, mean-spirited, physical style that tends to be particularly effective in the postseason.
Logan Couture had a term for it that he repeated twice on Tuesday night following the Sharks’ 3-1 win over Toronto.
"He's in-your-face. He's one of those guys, he'll play chippy, he'll finish his check on skilled guys,” Couture said. “He plays in-your-face."
How important is it to have those “in-your-face” players in the lineup in the postseason?
“It’s critical,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “There’s nowhere to hide, especially out here and especially in our division. You look at the potential trail through the Western Conference, this is going to be a really tough road. We’re going to need some gritty, character guys to add to the grit and character we already have in the room.”
Brenden Dillon, a Vancouver native who said he knows Hansen a bit off the ice, said: “Obviously, [it’s] nicer to have those kind of [gritty] guys on your team than against them. Especially come playoff time, you know the hits and the after-the-whistle stuff is going to happen."
DeBoer didn’t yet have a place in mind for where Hansen might line up, as he said he only found out about the deal when everyone else did, which was late in the second period of the Sharks-Maple Leafs game at SAP Center. Sharks general manager Doug Wilson hinted to DeBoer before the game that he had “some options that he felt were getting closer, but nothing imminent at that point.”
Still, DeBoer knew that Hansen was a potential target, and the Sharks coach rattled of a laundry list of why he believes it’s a good fit for his club.
“A guy that played both ways, had speed, could kill penalties, could chip in some goals, could play with good players, had a long history in the playoffs, knew the Western Conference,” DeBoer said. “All those boxes checked, and from a character point of view, the reports were fantastic as far as fitting in with our group.”
The NHL trade deadline hits on Wednesday at noon, and the Sharks don’t seem to have any obvious holes. Scoring depth was thought to be the top need (at least according to this writer), and Hansen gives the Sharks a little bit more of that to go with his other aforementioned attributes.
DeBoer would be fine with the current group in teal if no more acquisitions are made.
“I love our group. I’ve said that all along,” he said. “This is a bonus. Credit to Doug, it’s not easy to give up a young prospect like that, especially somebody homegrown. We all like [Goldobin] as a kid and as a prospect and I think he’s got a bright future, but I think we recognize that this group has a chance to do something special. He’s gone out and added to it, which I think we all appreciate.”
Couture was glad that no one off the current Sharks roster had to be sacrificed for the newest addition.
“This group here that's very close,” Couture said. “Talking with Doug, that's one thing that he was focused on. He didn't want to change the dynamic of this group and move a guy from this team. So, we stuck with that. We're a team here that obviously a good year last year, and we're hoping to build on that."