The Carolina Hurricanes were not expected to be a major player in NHL free agency but, to the surprise of the league, landed one of the top free agent defensemen on the market, signing former Islanders defenseman Calvin de Haan to a four year deal with a $4.55 million average annual value.
De Haan’s 2017-18 went off the rails after he suffered a season-ending shoulder injury and had to get surgery. De Haan played in just 33 games, accumulating one goal and 11 assists, five more than Klas Dahlbeck in the same number of games. In 2016-17, de Haan played a full season and set a career high with 25 points (5 goals, 20 assists).
On Long Island (and later in Brooklyn), de Haan was relied on to be a steady hand on a rocky defense led by aging veterans Johnny Boychuk and Dennis Seidenberg. de Haan is a great shot blocker, stopping almost 200 shots in each of his last two full seasons.
For further insight, we spoke to Dan Saraceni of SB Nation’s Lighthouse Hockey:
You can almost pinpoint the moment the Islanders’ season went irreparably off the rails. It was the middle of December and de Haan went down with a shoulder injury that would ultimately cost him the rest of the season. There were a lot of reasons why the Islanders bled goals all season, but losing the steady de Haan and Garth Snow’s inability or reluctance to replace him was definitely one of them.
de Haan’s game isn’t flashy or the type that ends up on a lot of highlights or box scores. He’s more about being smart and steady in his own end and keeps the puck moving in the right directions. His offensive instincts are okay, but he’ll probably never be a big point producer. He was used on the power play sparingly, though, so maybe Rod Brind’Amour can unlock some new role for him. He can be paired with anyone but it seems he’s better suited for middle-pairing work.
Unfortunately, he does have an injury history, specifically with his shoulder, that stretches back to his junior days. He’d been very healthy for the last few seasons, so maybe this last injury was just an anomaly, but it’s definitely a concern.
de Haan is also incredibly nice, funny guy and one of the most underrated Twitter follows in the NHL. He’s not afraid to interact with fans even after losses and is a proud supporter of the [CFL] Ottawa REDBLACKS, perfect for the Hurricanes.
I guarantee before the end of the season, a subsection of fans will declare his free agent contract a waste and say he’s not doing anything out there. Then when he’s gone, your team suddenly can’t retrieve the puck in its own zone any more and opposing forwards are allowed to roam unobstructed, making matters even worse. It happened to us and it can happen to you.
De Haan is a versatile defenseman that can fill many roles. He thrives on puck possession and is able to be relatively productive offensively for a defenseman, despite him starting mostly in the defensive zone on shifts. As a left handed defenseman, it is likely the Canes will pair de Haan with newly acquired right handed defenseman Dougie Hamilton or alongside Brett Pesce.
This signing proves that Raleigh can become a desirable destination for trade bait and free agents. Calvin de Haan does not fill a need, but instead adds to an existing strength. Signing de Haan adds to an a defense that can soon emerge to the forefront of the league and allows general manager Don Waddell and company to move Justin Faulk to stock up on offense. This kind of flexibility presents multiple possibilities as the Hurricanes shape their roster before the start of the 2018-19 season.
Waddell and owner Tom Dundon have tried to change pre-existing stigmas around the Hurricanes that they aren’t willing to make daring moves. Between the acquisition of Hamilton and the signing of de Haan, the pair were able to improve the Hurricanes more in one offseason than Ron Francis was able to over the past two seasons. Playing games will ultimately determine if the long term signing was worth it but all signs point to a happy ending with de Haan and the Hurricanes.