In an attempt to further shore up their blue line, the Blackhawks announced Monday that they have acquired defenseman Calvin de Haan and forward prospect Aleksi Saarela from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for goaltender Anton Forsberg and defenseman Gustav Forsling.
De Haan has three years remaining on his contract that carries a $4.55 million cap hit. He becomes the third-highest paid defenseman on the Blackhawks in terms of cap hit behind Duncan Keith ($5.538 million) and Brent Seabrook ($6.875 million); newly-acquired Olli Maatta ($4.083 million) and Connor Murphy ($3.85 million) aren't far behind.
De Haan registered 14 points (one goal, 13 assists) and averaged 18:31 of ice time in 74 regular-season games in his first season with the Hurricanes, and added one goal in 12 postseason contests. He's 28 years old, is a left-handed shot and was known to be a puck-mover when he was drafted in the first round (No. 12 overall) in 2009 but has grown into more of a defensive specialist in the NHL.
De Haan logged 147:22 of ice time on the penalty kill last season, according to Natural Stat Trick, which ranked third among Hurricanes defensemen. He also recorded 106 blocked shots and 187 hits, which ranked fourth and second on the team, respectively. He's someone who might be better suited on the third pairing, but can certainly play a top-four role.
Between the Maatta and de Haan acquisitions, two defensive-minded blue liners, the Blackhawks aren't messing around when they say they're looking to clean things up in their own end. Both of these players address that — or at least the Blackhawks are hoping it does.
The primary concern for de Haan is his health. He underwent right shoulder surgery in May and his recovery time was put at four-to-six months, meaning he may not be ready for the start of training camp in September or possibly the season opener on Oct. 4 in Prague. But if the Blackhawks felt like that injury was a long-term issue, they wouldn't have traded for his services.
The other part of the deal involved Saarela, a 22-year-old versatile forward who set a career high in all three scoring categories — goals (30), assists (24) and points (54) — in 69 regular-season games with the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League. He also compiled 15 points (seven goals, eight assists) in 17 Calder Cup Playoff games, and skated in one Stanley Cup Playoff game for the Hurricanes.
Saarela has one more year left on his entry-level deal that carries a cap hit of $753,333, and is likely to start the season with the Rockford IceHogs. He is the older brother of Antti Saarela, who was drafted by the Blackhawks in the fourth round (No. 123 overall) of the 2019 NHL Draft.
The Blackhawks had 11 restricted free agents at the end of the season and a crowded roster put them in a spot where they couldn't re-sign everybody. Forsberg, who was jumped on the Blackhawks' goaltending depth chart by Collin Delia, and Forsling, who's struggled to become a fixture on the Blackhawks blue line in part due to injuries, were two players whose roles were likely going to diminish. Tuesday is the deadline for teams to extend qualifying offers.
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