Going into last season, the biggest criticism of the Colorado Avalanche lineup was how weak their blueline was. Beyond Erik Johnson, Tyson Barrie and Nikita Zadorov, there were just a bunch of question marks. While the acquisition of Samuel Girard in the Matt Duchene trade strengthened the defense significantly, there is still a lot of work to do before Joe Sakic feels fully comfortable.
Sakic spoke about ‘staying the course’. He mentioned that the team is going to stick with their youth movement, and that has many fans speculating that there isn’t going to be a whole lot of change to the roster. That said, the defensive group in Denver can only improve so much with natural growth. Girard and Zadorov will get better as they age, but there is still a glaring hole on the left side beyond those two.
As we saw this year, injuries happen, so not only do you need guys that the coach can trust on the third pair, but you also need defenders that can step up and play a bigger role when necessary.
A top-4 of Johnson, Zadorov, Barrie and Girard is a very good starting point, but putting together a strong 3rd pair is going to be essential. Mark Alt is around as the 8/9 guy. Patrik Nemeth will likely be back, but he is perfectly suited to be a #7. There’s also the possibility that one of Conor Timmins or Nicholas Meloche step into the 3RD role. If that’s the case, Bednar is going to want a stable veteran to play on the left side with the rookie.
Enter Calvin de Haan.
Drafted 12th overall in 2009, de Haan has spent his entire career playing for the New York Islanders. The newly 27-year old has played five full seasons in the NHL and would be the type of young veteran that would fit in nicely with the core of this Avalanche team.
Over the past three seasons, he has the best CF% of any Islanders defender to play more than 20 games - while being deployed in a defensive role. He’s been playing second pair minutes with the Islanders and spending a lot of time on the top penalty-kill unit. He is a simple, scoring chance suppressing defender and the strengths in de Haan’s game perfectly compliment the group currently under contract with the Avalanche.
Signing de Haan wouldn’t come without risk. His 2017-18 season was limited to 33 games after a pretty serious shoulder injury. The defender underwent surgery this past January and he is expected to have no limitations by the time training camp rolls around, but anyone who has separated their shoulder knows that in many cases, this is an injury that never fully heals.
Calvin de Haan says he finally feels "human" again after Jan. 18 surgery to repair a dislocated left shoulder. Said docs did everything, full-service surgery, including putting in new bone.— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) April 9, 2018
Though there’s the risk, it is certainly outweighed by the positive impact de Haan would have on the lineup. He’s not going to bring much in the way of offense - his career high is 25 points in 82 games - but with the way the roster is currently constructed, that’s not what the Avalanche need. He’s a strong, defensive minded player that limits scoring chances against and would compliment guys like Tyson Barrie or Nicholas Meloche.
He can kill penalties and will bring the ability to alleviate some of the strain put on Erik Johnson’s ice-time. With more than 300 NHL games under his belt, de Haan would bring a reliable presence to the backend - something that was missing at times this season. He’d likely slot into the lineup on the third pair, but would be a more than adequate fill-in when the inevitable injury occurs in the top-4.
He’s not the most flashy name out there, but Calvin de Haan would be a drastic improvement over the other options behind Zadorov and Girard on the left side of the blueline.
How Much Would He Cost?
Last summer de Haan signed a one-year contract worth $3.3m that acted as a bridge to his unrestricted free agency. With longer term, it’s not unlikely that we could see de Haan sign for a lower cap his this July.
A three year contract worth about $10 million would likely be enough to get the job done. The term would carry de Haan through age 30 and would be a cap hit that is more than palatable for the type of play he would bring to the team.
There are a lot of Avalanche fans that will argue that spending money on free agents this summer is not a good idea. The issue is that, this team needs to spend simply to get to the cap floor.
What do you think? Would signing Calvin de Haan be a smart move for the Avalanche this summer?