The Chicago Blackhawks have traded defender Gustav Forsling and goaltender Anton Forsberg in exchange for veteran defender Calvin de Haan and forward Aleksi Saarela. This trade comes just a few days after the 2019 NHL Entry Draft and one week from the start of free agency.
For the Blackhawks, this trade makes a lot of sense. Moving on from a defender who probably ranked eighth or lower on their depth chart as well as the fourth goaltender on their team to acquire a legitimate top-four defensive option is incredible value. This is even more true when considering the fact that de Haan is signed to a very team-friendly $4.55 million cap hit through the 2021-22 season.
In 74 games last season, de Haan scored one goal and 14 points in 74 games. It wasn’t his best season from a points perspective, but de Haan has proven he can produce more than that in the past – though admittedly that isn’t the strength of his game. For de Haan, his value lies on the defensive side of the puck.
The Blackhawks had interest in signing de Haan a season ago before he ultimately joined the Carolina Hurricanes as a free agent. One season later, the Blackhawks got the player they ultimately coveted while also picking up a very talented young forward in Saarela in the process.
While it’s hard to truly know what Saarela will be at the NHL level given the fact that he’s played zero regular season NHL games in his career, the 22-year-old Saarela has already surpassed any expectations that were placed upon him as a third-round pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.
The New York Rangers selected Saarela 89th overall in 2015 before including him in the deal that saw Eric Staal shipped to New York back in 2016.
A very successful Finnish Elite League career that saw him score 20 goals and 33 point sin 51 games in 2015-16 with Assat Pori followed by 15 goals and 28 points in 49 games with Lukko Rauma the following season would eventually lead to an opportunity in the AHL with the Charlotte Checkers.
During his time in the AHL, Saarela has impressed with 51 goals and 107 points in 147 games, including 30 goals and 54 points in 69 games a season ago. He’d also finish his postseason run with seven goals and 15 points in 17 games.
Hurricanes Clearing Cap Space
The trade for the Hurricanes clears up some cap space on defense with de Haan’s salary now cleared out. It also giving the Hurricanes an option in net with so many question marks surrounding the position heading into free agency.
While the 26-year-old Forsberg hasn’t looked like a legitimate starter in his career, he certainly has the potential to be a backup goalie in the NHL. He’s played in 35 games with the Blackhawks in 2017-18 and compiled a 10-16-4 record with a 2.97 goals-against average and .908 save percentage. Last season in the AHL, Forsberg would go 15-17-1 with the Rockford IceHogs on the back of a 2.64 goals-against average and .919 save percentage.
The Hurricanes also acquired the 23-year-old Forsling who could still grow into a regular in the NHL. This deal clears cap space for the Hurricanes, as mentioned, while still giving them options on the back-end, even if their defensive core is already filled to the brim.
On paper, the Blackhawks are the clear winners of this deal as de Haan is one of the best at what he does and Forsling has yet to prove he can be a reliable top-six option. As Pierre LeBrun mentioned, however, the cap space saved in this deal was the most important factor as they could be looking at other moves.