The Blackhawks don’t have many defensive defensemen.
Many of their young up-and-coming defensemen are offensively geared — look at Adam Boqvist and Ian Mitchell. But they do have guys like Connor Murphy, Nikita Zadorov and Calvin de Haan.
The latter of that trio is one of the most straightforward cases on the Blackhawks. While de Haan doesn’t play enough — just 73 games in his two seasons with the Blackhawks — when he does, he can be one of the Blackhawks’ better defensemen in his own end.
The pairing of Murphy and de Haan, which played 162:55 together at 5-on-5, was one of the Blackhawks’ best pairings. They had the second best expected goals for percentage (among pairings with more than 60 minutes) with 53.44 percent. The best was another de Haan pairing, with Zadorov.
He had the second-best expected goals for percentage at 5-on-5 of any Blackhawk (more than 20 games) after Dylan Strome with 47.85 percent and de Haan also had the second-best shots for percentage as well at 49.56 percent.
While de Haan’s foot speed is a detriment to his game — a few reasons why he may not have as much offensive value is his lack of speed getting up the ice and typically low shooting percentage — he brings a lot of value in his own end.
De Haan improved from his 0.6 even-strength defensive goals above replacement mark last season to 3.2 this season, as his overall GAR jumped from 0.5 to 1.4. De Haan also jumped in his expected numbers, from 0.7 even-strength defensive xGAR to 3.1. De Haan is a player that can be used in a shutdown depth pairing, but likely isn’t the top-four option the Blackhawks were probably hoping for when acquiring him from the Hurricanes.
His offense, while still low, also saw an uptick. He went from 0.62 points per 60 last season to 0.73 this season, even as his goals fell, largely due to a drop in shooting percentage (2.38 to 1.72 percent). His expected goals went up from 0.09 to 0.14, his giveaways went down (2.64 from 3.01) and his takeaways went up (1.1 from 0.94).
It’s almost as if the Blackhawks shouldn’t make de Haan available at the expansion draft. But two of the spots are pretty concretely filled — Murphy isn’t going anywhere and Duncan Keith, while the temptation to trade him may be growing and growing every year, is someone the Blackhawks should get assets back for — leaving just one available.
It’s a three-way race between Riley Stillman, de Haan and Zadorov for that one spot and Zadorov needs a new contract before he could be exposed. Stillman, the youngest of the bunch and also the cheapest, is one the Kraken — with their rumored interest in taking the cheapest roster possible — is most likely to be taken should he be available.
That may make it seem like the Kraken could just allow de Haan and his $4.55 million cap hit to stay in Chicago, but there are not many options available to Seattle from the Blackhawks’ roster. Unless Seattle wants to try and sign Vinnie Hinostroza in free agency, it seems like they will choose from whichever defensemen get left available.
And that’s a real shame, because de Haan did good work in Chicago when he was healthy — that includes with the kids. Four of the Blackhawks’ five best defensive pairings last season in terms of shots for percentage included de Haan. Two Blackhawks’ rookies — Boqvist and Wyatt Kalynuk — had their best pairing (of 30 or more minutes) with de Haan. He’s somebody that can be trusted alongside the youth and that will grow especially important.
You know what .. keep de Haan. It’s the smart thing to do. But then again, this organization may not be that into the smart thing. So.