Only the Ottawa Senators gave up more goals than the Chicago Blackhawks in 2018-2019. Objective number one on Stan Bowman’s offseason list was improving the team’s defense. Bowman took a step in the right direction Monday night by acquiring defenseman Calvin de Haan in a trade with the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Hawks also acquired forward Aleksi Saarela in the deal with Carolina. It appears this move was a salary cap dump on Carolina’s behalf, as the Blackhawks only gave up goaltender Anton Forsberg and defenseman Gustav Forsling.
Forsberg and Forsling are both fringe NHL skaters at best. de Haan on the other hand, can play top-four minutes on the Hawks blue line. de Haan (28) signed with the Hurricanes in free agency last offseason after playing six seasons for the New York Islanders.
The defensive-minded de Haan is signed for the next three seasons with a cap hit of $4.55M AAV. A reasonable number for a guy who will step in and help stabilize one of the worst defensive units in the NHL.
Something to keep an eye on is the offseason surgery de Haan had when the Hurricanes were eliminated from the playoffs. The defenseman had shoulder surgery in May and is slated to miss 4-6 months.
The Blackhawks now feature a crowded blue line, so there are likely still moves to be made. Here is the current situation:
Carl Dahlstrom and Slater Koekkoek could find themselves in Rockford or serving as the seventh defenseman. After those two, however, the Hawks currently have their six guys. That doesn’t count Henri Jokiharju who deserves time in the NHL next season. That also doesn’t leave a spot for 2018 first-round pick Adam Boqvist, who will look to compete for a spot in training camp.
It is very unlikely that Brent Seabrook or Duncan Keith will be moved. With Maata and de Haan being the new additions, you can pencil them in as well. That only leaves two spots on the blue line. The possibility of Connor Murphy or Erik Gustafsson being moved still remains.
As for de Haan, he is exactly what the Blackhawks need. A reliable, defensive-minded defenseman who can kill penalties. de Haan won’t dazzle in the offensive zone, but that is just fine. Defense is what the Hawks need, and that is what de Haan does best.
Aleksi Saarela, the other member of this trade, is a 22-year-old center who was a third-round pick in the 2015 NHL draft by the New York Rangers. Saarela’s only appearance in the NHL so far was one game in the playoffs last year with the Hurricanes. The Blackhawks selected his brother, Antti Saarela, in the fourth round of the 2019 NHL Draft with the 123rd overall pick.
After a number of questionable moves from Stan Bowman over the past four years, it is nice to see nothing but positive reaction on this front. When you can get a top-four defenseman without losing anything of substance, you can chalk that one up as a win. There are still moves to be made, but Monday’s trade with Carolina is a step in the right direction.
Featured Photo: Jamie Kellner