The Blackhawks acquired defenseman Calvin de Haan and forward Aleksi Saarela from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for two RFAs.
What a deal for the Blackhawks! If we’re being honest, this was a salary dump by the Hurricanes, but I’ll gladly take it. They owed us for that infamous Bryan Bickell and Teuvo Teravainen deal back in 2016.
The Hurricanes received a young defenseman in Gustav Forsling, who has some upside but hasn’t quite panned out in Chicago, and a depth goalie in Anton Forsberg.
In this seemingly lopsided trade, Chicago gains a legitimate Top 4 defenseman, in Calvin de Haan, that they’ve been desperately searching for over the past couple of seasons. The Blackhawks missed out on signing de Haan last season, but better late than never.
The other piece in the trade, Aleksi Saarela, is the brother of Blackhawks’ 2019 4th round pick Antti Saarela. Aleksi was originally drafted in the 3rd round of the 2015 NHL Draft by the New York Rangers. He would eventually be traded to Carolina where he signed a 3-year entry level in 2016.
Calvin de Haan
Calvin de Haan stands at 6’1″ 195 lbs. He was someone that I really wanted the Blackhawks to go after last offseason, but they opted for Brandon Manning, Chris Kunitz, Cam Ward, and Brandon Davidson instead.
De Haan is a currently 28 years old and plays a solid two-way game. As a left-handed defenseman, he will mesh well with the upcoming plethora of right-handed defensemen prospects and current NHL defensemen. The Blackhawks’ Top 4 looks to be solidified for the foreseeable future.
De Haan has had a very productive 7-year NHL career. Last season, he produced 14 points (1G, 13A) with a 1 ± rating in 71 games, and also, averaged 18:31 ATOI with the Hurricanes. Blackhawks fans will love this stat: he has100+ blocked shots in 5 of his 7 NHL seasons.
With production, comes the price tag. Calvin de Haan signed a 4-year, $18.2 mil ($4.55 mil AAV) contract with the Hurricanes last season.
The Blackhawks will take on his remaining 3 years, but honestly, that’s a fair price point when you look around the league — or even at Brent Seabrook’s contract.
Take a look at your newest defenseman, Chicago! I think you’re going to really like this guy. I know I already do.
Aleksi Saarela is a 22-year-old offensive minded forward who stands at 5’10” 201 lbs. He hasn’t broken into the NHL yet, but he has built a solid resume lately.
Saarela won two medals with Team Finland (U-20 gold medal, U-18 silver medal) and won the 2019 Calder Cup with the Charlotte Checkers (AHL).
Here is a scouting report from eliteprospects.com, which gives you a good idea of the type of game that Saarela plays:
"“A dangerous offensive forward that creates energy through scoring chances. Possesses good hockey sense as well as good hands and stickhandling ability. A smooth and speedy skater who has a lot of jump in his step. Not very large in stature; however, his diminutive size doesn’t deter his scoring prowess, and that is what he will have to rely upon to be successful.” (Curtis Joe, EP 2014)"
Saarela has had success in both LIIGA, with Ässät and Lukko, and in the AHL, with the Charlotte Checkers.
He came on strong with the Checkers during their 2019 Calder Cup run, where he scored 15 points (7G, 8A) with a 4 ± rating in 17 games.
At this point, I am not sure if Aleksi Saarela will crack the Blackhawks’ 2019-20 NHL roster, but from his body of work, it definitely seems possible. Can’t count anything out right now, especially more trades.
If you haven’t had a chance to see Aleksi Saarela play yet, check out this highlight reel and you’ll become a fan instantly.
The 2019 NHL Draft has come and gone. The Blackhawks added some much-needed depth, both offensively and defensively. Now, with this trade, they have gotten a headstart on addressing immediate team needs.
Stan Bowman has been executing some fantastic trades lately, and more are sure to be on the way. The next step is to attack free agency head on, which begins on July 1st.