One of the best defensive corps in the National Hockey League just got better - again.
After acquiring Dougie Hamilton from Calgary in a five-player, draft-day trade, the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday signed defenseman Calvin de Haan to a four-year contract worth $18.2 million.
It's a statement signing for the Canes, snagging one of the top defensemen on the unrestricted free agent market to bolster what's already one of the league's most formidable blue lines.
"I get to play with one of the best, young blue lines in the NHL," de Haan said on a conference call. "I feel like I can step in and help this team win. I'm aware that the Hurricanes haven't made the playoffs in the last nine years, and to be honest, I really want to be part of the solution here."
The Hurricanes made just one move as free agency opened on Sunday, signing goaltender Petr Mrazek to a one-year deal, but they had made contact with de Haan's camp. On Monday, President and General Manager Don Waddell, majority owner Tom Dundon and head coach Rod Brind'Amour each had a chance to speak with de Haan before negotiations began with his representation on Tuesday.
"Once everyone had a chance to talk to him, we understood what a good person he is," Waddell said.
"The other day was the first time I spoke with Rod. Obviously I know who he was as a player, the character he played with and the type of guy he was when he played," de Haan said. "Hopefully he brings the same kind of leadership being the bench. I think it's going to be a fun group to play for."
De Haan, 27, has totaled 81 points (12g, 69a) in 304 career NHL games with the Islanders. De Haan recorded a plus-11 rating in 2017-18 on a team that had a minus-32 goal differential, and over the last four seasons, the defenseman was a plus-32 player.
In the last four seasons, de Haan has recorded 583 blocked shots, which ranks him in the top 20 of all NHL skaters. His 2.3 blocked shots per game average since the 2013-14 season ranks tied for second in the league (among skaters who have played at least 100 games).
De Haan's 2017-18 campaign was cut short by a shoulder injury, but that will not threaten his readiness for training camp in September.
"My shoulder feels great," he said. "I had the surgery in January, and I've been skating for two months, playing golf, doing all the normal human being things. I feel really good."
The addition of the left-shooting de Haan, drafted 12th overall by the Islanders in 2009, helps balance out the Canes' defense. Waddell mused earlier in the week about moving Brett Pesce, a right shot, to the left side, but that should no longer be necessary.
Assuming the Hurricanes can re-sign restricted free agent Trevor van Riemsdyk, the team will have a glut of right-shooting, NHL caliber defensemen on the roster.
"We have pretty good depth on the blue line right now," Waddell said. "It gives us some options to look at some other needs or re-stocking the shelf with young players and draft picks. We've got time on our side. … I don't feel an urgency to do something, but certainly we'll look at all our options."
In any case, the Canes' stout defense is only looking stouter. That's part of what sold de Haan on signing with the team.
"They were an annoying team to play against as a defenseman. They've got fast, skilled forwards up front. When you look at the overall team possession numbers over the last few years, they're annoying to play against," he said. "It's a good, young, solid, underrated D corps … and I'm really looking forward to it."
It's been a summer of change for the Hurricanes, who first re-tooled things behind the bench and have now, in just a few short weeks, shaken up their roster and seemingly improved in every facet, even at a position that was already viewed as the team's forte.
"I want to be part of the solution to help make the team better, to help the fans in Raleigh appreciate the Hurricanes," he said. "I want to help. I'll do my best to help the winning cause and hopefully put the Hurricanes and Carolina back on the map."