Popular ex-Blackhawks defenseman Calvin de Haan adjusting to smaller role on Hurricanes

De Haan, 31, struggled to find a new team after the Hawks let him walk as a free agent this past summer. He eventually signed a contract with the Hurricanes, but he was a healthy scratch Monday for his homecoming game in Chicago.

SHARE Popular ex-Blackhawks defenseman Calvin de Haan adjusting to smaller role on Hurricanes
Calvin de Haan shoots the puck.

Calvin de Haan has played in nine games for the Hurricanes this season but was a healthy scratch Monday against the Blackhawks.

Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Back in March, Calvin de Haan was pleasantly surprised he wasn’t dealt by the Blackhawks at the trade deadline.

In retrospect, however, he somewhat wishes he had been.

Instead of toiling away on the down-and-out Hawks at the end of last season, the additional exposure provided by contributing to a contender down the stretch likely would’ve helped the 31-year-old defenseman earn a new contract more easily as an unrestricted free agent this past summer.

It worked out well enough in the end — he parlayed a training-camp tryout with the Hurricanes into a one-year, $850,000 deal — but he didn’t receive the interest he anticipated for a while.

“It probably would’ve been beneficial for me to get moved at the deadline, to get some playoff hockey in,” de Haan said Monday. “I was on an expiring contract. That’s the general rule of thumb for that stuff. But sometimes it takes two teams to tango. Maybe nobody wanted me. Maybe a lot of teams did, and the Hawks didn’t know what to do. That’s a question for their management.

“A lot of the [other defensemen] who were UFAs either played in the playoffs or re-signed with the teams they were familiar with. I don’t blame other teams for re-signing guys they were familiar with. . . . But after seeing some of the deals that those guys got, it would’ve been nice to be in a similar position.”

De Haan insists he still enjoyed his time in Chicago — making 142 appearances over three seasons — even though it was a “weird few years” with little team success.

In every interview, he was a fervent optimist the Hawks would soon put things together, but they simply never did. De Haan still managed to win over plenty of fans with his quick-witted personality, frequent activity on social media, love of beer and devotion to blocking shots. The fact he played much of the 2021 season with a fractured tibia will never cease to be remarkable.

“I’ll cherish all my moments as a Hawk,” he said. “We had a good three seasons here. The city is awesome, and I hope I’m welcomed back with open arms one day.”

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Calvin de Haan spent the last three seasons with the Blackhawks.

Sean Haffey/Getty Images file photo

Now de Haan is back where he was — in Carolina — before landing on the Hawks in 2019. He and the Hurricanes “chitchatted” throughout the summer (during which he never contemplated retirement), and after veteran Hurricanes defenseman Jake Gardiner suffered a setback in his injury comeback attempt, de Haan’s services were needed.

“I was confident I was going to get something at some point,” he said. “I have a pretty good pedigree. I’m not going to put up a million points, but I try to play the game the right way. So I think a number of teams could’ve used me.”

He’s already accustomed to the city of Raleigh, which he appreciates. Adjusting to a much smaller workload on the Hurricanes’ stacked roster, however, has been tougher.

After playing nearly 19 minutes per night over 69 games with the Hawks last season, he has averaged only 12:48 of ice time and had two points in nine games for the Hurricanes, rotating with Dylan Coghlan, Jalen Chatfield and Max Lajoie on the third pairing. He was disappointed to be a healthy scratch for his homecoming game Monday at the United Center.

“I’ve played a significant role on most teams that I’ve played on, and I’m sitting in the back here a little bit,” de Haan said. “At the same time, it’s hard to complain about being on a team that has Stanley Cup aspirations. They’ve had good success the last few years, and to come in here and try to earn a spot is tough. I’m just trying to do my best with the ice time I’m given.”

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