Blackhawks’ defensive outlook cloudy with Ian Mitchell, Calvin de Haan’s statuses uncertain
Mitchell’s contract eligibility and de Haan’s injury recovery are both up in the air for the 2020 NHL playoffs.
The defense that the Blackhawks will field when — or if — the 2020 NHL playoffs begin has two major question marks.
Will Ian Mitchell be eligible to play? And will Calvin de Haan (or perhaps even Brent Seabrook) be healthy enough to play?
Mitchell, long considered the Hawks’ best prospect, finally signed his entry-level contract April 11. But since no one knew at the time if the 2019-20 season would resume at all, its three-year length didn’t come with a specified start date.
And now, even after the NHL’s announcement of the 24-team postseason that will include the Hawks, there’s still no specified start date.
Deputy commissioner Bill Daly initially threw cold water on the idea that Mitchell and other rookies and European imports signed by other teams in recent months — most notably Montreal’s Alexander Romanov, Minnesota’s Kirill Kaprizov and the Islanders’ Ilya Sorokin — would be allowed to play.
“The league’s position right now, and our position with our clubs since the start of the pause, is no club is entitled to sign a current-year contract,” Daly said Tuesday. “They are free to sign future-year contracts, so for the 2020-21 season and beyond [is] perfectly fair game.
“It may be unfair to let [those players] play the balance of the season. We’ve progressed past the trade deadline. Each team has kind of set its roster.”
But Daly clarified the issue would need to be negotiated between the NHL and the Players’ Association, and it turns out the NHLPA does indeed see the issue differently.
On Thursday, TSN’s Darren Dreger reported the two sides are pushing back their deadline to decide from June 1 to July 1 in order to spend more time negotiating.
That opens the door slightly for Mitchell, whose eligibility would immediately make an enormous impact on the Hawks’ defensive unit.
He brings top-pairing upside to the NHL, and he’s beyond ready to make the professional jump.
De Haan, conversely, will be eligible to play if he’s healthy enough.
But the 29-year-old defenseman is trying to come back from a December 27 surgery on his right shoulder, his second surgery in the same location in 2019, that was supposed to keep him out for four to five months.
The long end of that timetable lines up with right now — late May — and indeed, a rink in Ottawa tweeted a video Friday of de Haan skating freely with the Islanders’ Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Maple Leafs’ Cody Ceci.
Nothing is definite, though, and de Haan’s lengthy career history of shoulder problems remains a concern for both him and the team.
Seabrook is far less likely to return from his multiple December and January surgeries, but Bowman and coach Jeremy Colliton did insist throughout the winter that Seabrook is expected back for 2020-21. If the 2020 playoffs don’t start until August, which is possible, he theoretically could have an outside chance of playing.
Regardless, the status of Mitchell and de Haan will determine whether or not the Hawks will need to deploy the likes of Lucas Carlsson, Nick Seeler and raw Nicolas Beaudin to fill out their defense.
That alone emphasizes the importance of their health and eligibility.
NOTES: With their final seven regular-season home games now officially canceled, the Hawks announced that affected season-ticket holders can choose between a 100% refund or a 120% credit applied to future season ticket packages. Single-game ticket holders can contact their point of purchase for refunds.
• The Hawks declined to comment on a report by Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman that the team is reducing the size of its pro scouting staff. The Hawks already issued furloughs and pay cuts for some employees, and laid off team website writer Chris Kuc, last week.