The Blackhawks’ defensive depth and experience have been dealt a massive blow.
Veteran defensemen Brent Seabrook and Calvin de Haan will miss the remainder of the season, the Hawks announced Thursday.
Seabrook will undergo surgery on his right shoulder Friday and on both hips in early 2020, the right side in early January and the left side in early February. He’ll turn 35 in April and already has 1,114 NHL games of wear and tear on his body, so the three-time Stanley Cup champion faces a crucial moment in his playing career.
De Haan, meanwhile, also will undergo surgery Friday on his right shoulder, his second surgery on the shoulder in less than a year. He spent the 2019 offseason and preseason rehabbing from the same operation.
The Hawks also announced that forward Brandon Saad will miss three more weeks with the ankle injury he suffered last week in Winnipeg.
De Haan’s surgery doesn’t come as a surprise. His injury — suffered Dec. 10 in Las Vegas — seemed serious from the start.
He’s only 28 years old, but he has dealt with shoulder issues throughout his career and his ability to hold up moving forward has to be a concern for the Hawks. The former Islanders and Hurricanes defenseman has two years left on his contract after this season.
Seabrook’s diagnosis, however, arrives as a shock.
After being a healthy scratch for the third time this season Dec. 18 against the Avalanche, Seabrook didn’t travel on the Hawks’ road trip that began the next day, and coach Jeremy Colliton said Seabrook was going to get some nagging issues checked out.
He missed the Hawks’ home game Monday, as well, and Colliton offered no details about the issues. Now it’s clear they were major. Thursday’s announcement contained no insight on Seabrook’s status for next season, but he has four years left on his contract after this season.
The Hawks put both defensemen on long-term injured reserve, joining concussed forwards Andrew Shaw and Drake Caggiula, and thus will be free from their combined $11.4 million salary-cap hit for the remainder of the season.
That gives the team — which was so cap-strapped a few weeks ago that it played a game with 17 skaters — immense flexibility. According to Capfriendly, the Hawks have $12.8 million worth of room for the rest of the season.
Yet what general manager Stan Bowman will, and should, do with that space is unclear.
All of that money is back on the books after the season, so the Hawks won’t escape their impending summer cap bind.
They easily could fit one or two rentals with expiring contracts, such as the Devils’ Sami Vatanen or the Senators’ Mark Borowiecki, but giving up assets to make that kind of trade seems short-sighted.
This virtually guarantees that defensemen Adam Boqvist and Dennis Gilbert will stay with the Hawks. Boqvist will accumulate an accrued NHL season and become an unrestricted free agent in 2026, instead of 2027, if he’s on the roster for 25 of the Hawks’ 44 remaining games, but his immediate impact and development take priority.
The Hawks can’t, and don’t, expect Boqvist and Gilbert to be their saviors.
The defense entered the holiday break -allowing the second-most scoring chances in the league and is now without two of its most battle-tested defensive defensemen and -vocal leaders.
The news could prove to be one of the biggest nails in the Hawks’ coffin this season.