On Monday night, it was announced that the Carolina Hurricanes had traded Calvin de Haan and AHL level prospect Aleksi Saarela to the Chicago Blackhawks for goalie Anton Forsberg and defenseman Gustav Forsling.

I offered my Twitter-sized thoughts shortly after the deal the was announced and will add a layer or two of detail to them below.


First and foremost a financial move

The crux of this deal is making a move to take a step toward restructuring the team’s salary costs. My best guess has always been that the original plan last summer was to trade both Justin Faulk and Jeff Skinner last summer. The moves to add both Calvin de Haan and Dougie Hamilton in my opinion presupposed that Faulk would eventually be dealt. When that did not happen because the market just was not there, the Hurricanes entered the season with five top 4 defensemen and salaries to match. For the 2018-19 season it worked. The team did not yet need extra salary cap space, as it was barely above the salary cap minimum, and the depth proved to be a positive.

But longer term, the math will not work. Raises for Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen will take the Hurricanes’ salary up a notch. The team still needs to add at least one goalie and might not get off as cheap as last summer. There are additional players who will be up for new contracts in the next couple years. And just maybe the team will add a scoring forward to the mix to balance the lineup. At some point the Hurricanes would ideally need to cut some salary from the blue line and that happened on Monday.

Finally, $4.55 million per year for three years for a player who has now had major shoulder surgery in consecutive off-seasons is very risky. I de Haan was a free agent this summer and required a three-year contract for $4.55 million, would the Hurricanes sign him? Or would they pass because of the injury risk? I think that is an interesting question to ask for a player who actually garnered a return, albeit a modest one.

So more than who went which direction, this deal for the Hurricanes was about cost restructuring.


As noted above, the biggest thing is cutting costs for the blue line. Rumors and rumblings in the media suggest that this could be used to re-sign Justin Faulk who reportedly had contract discussions with the team during the weekend.


Gustav Forsling as depth with a needed skill set

In Chicago, Gustav Forsling was a depth defenseman. He will serve a similar role with the Hurricanes likely to compete for a third pairing slot or otherwise serve as a #7 defenseman. Forsling is a restricted free agent whose new contract will be more suited for a third pairing role than de Haan’s $4.55 million. In addition, Forsling brings a skill set that could also be a boost. As a defenseman whose skill set leans toward skill and skating, he could pair nicely with Trevor van Riemsdyk and add a puck-moving component to the third pairing. Forsling also offers another option for trying to improve the power play for the 2019-20 season. So though Forsling is not so much intended to be a direct replacement for what de Haan brought, he does back fill that slot in the lineup.


Anton Forsberg as #3 goalie type depth

Goalie Anton Forsberg is also as a depth type addition. I do not see him as a replacement for Petr Mrazek or an intended 1A or 1B in the Hurricanes lineup. Rather, I think the hope is that he can be quietly slipped to the AHL to give the Hurricanes a #3 goalie who has NHL experience. The negative with Forsberg is that he is 26 years old and has never really established himself as a regular NHL netminder. But along the way, he has accumulate 45 games of NHL experience. If the Hurricanes do decide to go with inexperienced Alex Nedeljkovic as one of the two NHL goalies to start the year, having a #3 in the AHL who is capable of stepping into the NHL adds a layer of insurance. Nedeljkovic did all that could be asked of him in the AHL in the 2018-19 season to earn NHL ice time, but just like with any rookie goalie, he is an unknown and therefore a risk at the NHL level for 2019-20. So if the Hurricanes can get him to the AHL, he represents a third goalie option.


For whatever reason, the team was not high on Aleksi Saarela

The other part of the deal from the Hurricanes side was including AHL-level prospect Aleksi Saarela. Saarela is an AHL sniper who, for whatever reason, never seemed to fit into the Hurricanes NHL plans. Per my assessment from prospect camp last summer, he is a bit of a one-dimensional player who has an NHL level shot and the potential to score at the NHL level, but whose game is not particularly well-rounded. The way I described it last summer was that he was dangerous in scoring situations but was virtually invisible for stretches in between. So despite scoring an impressive 30 goals in 69 games in the AHL in 2018-19, he only got a chance in the NHL for a single game in the playoffs when the Hurricanes forward corps were decimated by injuries. But as noted in the second half of the Twitter post, if by chance Saarela finds his way into the lineup and across from Patrick Kane, he has an NHL caliber shot and could potentially excel in such a receive/shoot type role with an elite playmaker on his line.


The other shoe(s) to drop

As noted at the outset, the primary motivation for this move was the financials. The question though is what the Hurricanes are saving salary for. Does this just pave the way to re-sign Justin Faulk? Are the savings needed just to keep the team’s salary controlled even Aho and Teravainen’s new contracts plus adding a goalie? Or is it possible that these transaction paves the way for the Hurricanes to add a higher-end scoring forward at a higher-end price? The last option would be most exciting and would most fit the ‘part of a bigger plan’ explanation for a move that traded away a capable defenseman for two depth players.

The other less likely wild card is that the Hurricanes somehow land a higher cost goalie to replace Mrazek and McElhinney.


Side note #1: Backwards timing if the team does intend to re-sign Justin Faulk?

If Justin Faulk wants to stay with the Hurricanes, the team would gain some amount of leverage for that situation. That leverage would be boosted by the fact that the team still had four top 4 defensemen under contract even without Faulk. That would suggest that the team could easily trade Faulk and still be set on the blue line. Now with the departure of de Haan, that is less true which could give Faulk a bit of an upper hand in contract negotiations.


Side note #2: Paired with the Patrick Marleau deal

Though the two deals are not directly linked, I think it is somewhat interesting to think of this trade paired with Saturday’s acquisition of Patrick Marleau. If the Hurricanes buy out Marleau as expected, the total cash cost will be $3.8 million. So the subtraction of de Haan’s salary with the addition of Forsling’s salary and assuming that Forsberg plays in the AHL on a two-way deal makes for about the same amount of total cost. But the Hurricanes also netted a first-round draft pick from the first deal.


Side note #3: NOT needed to add another goalie in order to buy out Scott Darling

I have seen a few people suggest that the Hurricanes need to sign a goalie from outside in order to have a goalie on the roster to be able to buy out Scott Darling. With 2018-19 player contracts good until June 30, that should not be the case. Though they are headed toward free agency, both Petr Mrazek and Curtis McElhinney (in addition to the AHLers) are under contract and make it possible to buy Scott Darling out (as long as there are no other problems with injuries).


Side note #4: Calvin de Haan and the sad people part of the story

Past all of the bits and bites of analyzing trades for what they mean on the ice is the people part of the story. In that regard, this deal is a sad one. De Haan is a class individual, great teammate and even a fan favorite after only one year in a Hurricanes uniform. Except when playing the Hurricanes, I will root for de Haan to do well just like nearly unanimously every other Hurricanes fan.


What say you Canes fans?


1) What do you think of the deal and trading Calvin de Haan with a prospect in Aleksi Saarela and netting only two depth players in return?


2) Would you interpret this to mean that the team will re-sign Justin Faulk?


3) Do you buy the argument that this savings is earmarked for another addition to follow soon? If so, what do you think the team is targeting (if not just Faulk) with the budget room that it just created?


Go Canes!


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