Defenseman Calvin de Haan might become an inaugural member of the Seattle Kraken this summer. Or he might stay with the Blackhawks.
Either way, the situation is out of his control — and he’s prepared to accept his fate.
“You’ve still got to play good hockey,” de Haan said Monday. “Whether you get picked or not in the expansion draft, one team is going to want you, hopefully. If you go to Seattle, you go to Seattle. It’s just how it is. You still have a job and still get to play hockey.”
There’s no guarantee Hawks general manager Stan Bowman will leave de Haan exposed for the expansion draft in July, and there’s no guarantee the Kraken would pick him off the Hawks’ list.
But he does look like the most likely candidate.
The Hawks have to leave Duncan Keith off because of his no-movement clause, and they’ll probably also protect fellow defensemen Connor Murphy and Nikita Zadorov.
Given the two protection format options available — either seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie or eight skaters of any type and one goalie — the Hawks would have to expose three forwards they’d otherwise protect (something along the lines of Brandon Hagel, Alex Nylander and David Kampf) in order to make de Haan their fourth protected defenseman. Bowman probably won’t do that.
De Haan’s contract runs through 2022 with a $4.55 million salary-cap hit, per CapFriendly. The Kraken might well view the steady 29-year-old veteran as the kind of player they’ll need to fill out their defense.
De Haan also is the kind of player who sees and reads expansion draft projections that outline the aforementioned logic. He doesn’t try to ignore media coverage and is by far the most active Hawk on social media.
Asked Monday to evaluate his play lately, he tellingly responded, “The hockey critics may not agree with how I’m playing, but I think I’ve been playing really good.”
So he’s not oblivious. But he’s accustomed to the noise.
“It’s not going to be a burden on my play,” he said. “I’m still going to try to play my best. At the same time, if I am exposed, this year is maybe a tryout for that team in a certain way, and you still want to play well. We want to make the playoffs here [in Chicago], so that’s obviously the . . . most important thing at this time.”
If this year is a tryout, de Haan has received passing marks. His shoulder injuries seemingly behind him, he has nicely filled his defensive defenseman role.
Entering Tuesday, his scoring chances against rate (26.7 per 60 minutes) were best among regular Hawks defensemen, and his shot attempts against rate (51.9) were best among all Hawks defensemen. He ranked sixth in the NHL in blocked shots, as well, with 68 in 31 games.
“He’s a dependable defender,” coach Jeremy Colliton said Monday. “He plays a hard game. He’s physical. He can get stops in ‘D’-zone. He’s got some wiliness to him, as far as finding ways to survive in tough situations.”
With so many young defensemen growing into bigger roles this season, the future-looking Hawks might not need de Haan as much beyond this summer — another reality Haan has acknowledged.
If that’s the case, the same wily nature that helps him on the ice might apply off it.
He was involved in the original expansion draft drama of 2017, when then-Islanders GM Garth Snow exposed de Haan, Brock Nelson and Ryan Strome but traded first- and second-round picks to convince the new Golden Knights franchise to pick goalie J.F. Berube instead.
De Haan managed to escape that debacle with his career unscathed. He’ll almost certainly find a way to do so this summer, too, no matter if it’s with the Kraken or the Hawks.