In case you were away for the Fourth of July holiday and are catching up, I wrote about the Hurricanes signing defenseman Calvin de Haan in some detail HERE.
Having yammered about signing de Haan for most of the week before the deal happened, I am obviously in favor of it. At the most basic level, the Hurricanes needed to improve its top 4 defensively. The addition of Dougie Hamilton was a step in that direction, but the team still needed a capable and steady left shot defenseman to round out and balance the top 4. De Haan should do exactly that.
The simplest justification for this deal is the most powerful one, but there are also a couple other significant angles which are the subject of today’s Daily Cup of Joe.
In rough terms, I think Calvin de Haan is a bit similar to Brett Pesce as a legitimate top 4 defenseman, leans defense and is a little bit light compared to ideal in terms of generating offense. De Haan’s career high is a modest 25 points, and his point totals over all five of his full seasons similarly project to 15-25 points over an 82-game season. So Pesce signed what I think is a fair deal at $4 million per year as a restricted free agent. Rough math suggests that the average for a top 4 on defense is about $20 million, but for many teams that includes at least one player who is a stretch as a top 4. When one considers that de Haan was an unrestricted free agent, I think a fair price for him is probably pretty close to the $4.55 million that he signed for, but I also fully expected his price to be in a $5-5.5 million range simply because of the annual scarcity at the position. So in that regard, I think the Hurricanes did really well getting him for the price the did on what is maybe a perfect term of four years that locks in a good price but does not creep too deep into de Haan’s 30s when things become risky. (De Haan will be turning 31 when the contract ends.)
Bigger picture, I think those who want to debate $500,000 or so in salary or maybe a year in term are missing the bigger point. The Hurricanes defense as constructed just was not good enough. Not finding a way to upgrade it would have maybe saved a few dollars but in my opinion significantly decreased the probability of righting the ship and pushing up into the playoffs. Holding out for a better price is only viable if there is a reasonable chance it could happen. In a tight market for legitimate top 4 defenseman, the choices are twofold. Pay a bit to much to add what you need. Or pass and suffer the consequences.
The importance of slotting on defense
Calvin de Haan also makes things right in terms of personnel on the blue line. The team is now three deep on both the left and the right side. And more significantly, the move pushes a couple pretty good third pairing defenseman in Trevor van Riemsdyk and Haydn Fleury down to the third pairing. A significant part of the Hurricanes’ problems on defense have come from overslotting players and hoping it works. As a 35-year old two years ago, Hainsey was overslotted in the top 4. Last year as a rookie Haydn Fleury had to play up when Hanifin still just was not ready for that role. And all along, I just do not think Faulk has been good enough on the defensive side of the puck. So de Haan and Hamilton give the Hurricanes a bona fide second top 4 defense pairing and in the process push good players down into depth roles. In the process, the Hurricanes become better not at just one position but at four. Hamilton gets help for leading a top 4 pairing, and the Hurricanes are pretty solid down in the third pairing with van Riemsdyk and Fleury.
Cost certainty for the blue line in total
With de Haan signed for four years, the Hurricanes now have a top 4 locked in for some time with Slavin signed for seven years, Pesce six, de Haan four and Hamilton three. The total cost of the group of 4 is a very reasonable $19.6 million which leaves a bunch of money to build out the rest of the lineup and even spend a bit of money on the bottom pairing if necessary.
Another penalty killer
Calvin de Haan also adds another penalty killer to the mix. After multiple years of being a strength, the Hurricanes penalty kill struggled in 2017-18. De Haan adds another option to the mix, as the team tries to improve in this regard.
Flexibility in completing a complex plan
All indications are that the Hurricanes entered the offseason with the intent of shaking up the roster and likely trading young veterans Jeff Skinner and Justin Faulk. While it is possible that one of both of these players are still with the team when the season starts, I think the odds in both cases are against it. But in giving up players like Skinner or Faulk who occupy roles in the top half of the lineup, there is a need to back fill the slots with additions. But as I have said a couple times in other articles, one for one swaps of players of the same position are very hard to do. If a team is looking to add a player like Jeff Skinner it is likely because they want to add offense/scoring. In such a case, trading a similarly capable scorer is just two steps forward and then immediately two steps back. As such, usually the easier way to do a deal is to trade a surplus of one position for a shortage in another. But doing this for the Hurricanes was going to be tricky with the caliber of players they were looking to move, no-trade clauses and other considerations. But by adding the defensive replacement for Faulk without giving anything up in trade is a win in terms of trade cost and also offers flexibility for the deals likely to follow. With a defenseman in tow already, if the Hurricanes can add a forward in return for Justin Faulk, then trading Jeff Skinner becomes much easier. Rather than needing a defenseman, the Hurricanes could take a high-end package of futures if that is the greatest value or could even add Petr Mrazek and possibly pursue a higher-end goalie.
What say you Canes fans?
After a day to mull it over, who has additional thoughts on the move to add Calvin de Haan and in the process hopefully solidify the blue line?