As we continue to navigate the "best of the rest," the New York Islanders' defense comes into question. There's little doubt that five spots are solidified on the Isles blue line consisting of Adam Pelech, Ryan Pulock, Noah Dobson, Alexander Romanov, and Scott Mayfield. The sixth spot is up for grabs as it stands and after a slew of signings last week retaining some internal options, it seems Robin Salo, Sebastian Aho, and Grant Hutton will all battle for a spot on the NHL roster. There are still some viable options to fill the sixth spot via free agency, however, and one of those options is former Islander Calvin de Haan.
de Haan was drafted by the Islanders in 2009, 12th overall and 11 spots behind John Tavares. He spent five-plus quality seasons manning the Islander blue line in a top-4 role before opting for free agency in the summer of 2018 and moving on with his career by signing with the Carolina Hurricanes, ironically in the same summer Tavares left for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Ontario, Canada native was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks the following summer in a multi-player deal. de Haan spent the next three seasons playing for a Blackhawks team that couldn't quite recapture their early 2010s identity.
de Haan now sits waiting for an offer as a free agent, one that teams are likely hesitant to approach. It hasn't been an easy road for de Haan battling injury in every season dating back to 2016-17, his only full season in his nine seasons in the NHL.
As a sixth man, de Haan could fit with the Islanders once again. Salo may be ready for the NHL, although he didn't exactly impress when he was returned to the AHL to play the remainder of the 2021-22 season with the Bridgeport Islanders. Aho was no better at the NHL level with the Islanders. Hutton was a sight for sore eyes as a steady option on the back end, but is a right shot and is likely a replacement for Mayfield if he prices himself out of the Islanders' budget.
The thing about de Haan is because he's so injury prone, he's a good solution to rotate in and out of the lineup with an up-and-comer like Salo, essentially giving Salo the Dobson treatment in his early NHL career. Giving de Haan a breather every so often is a good way to keep him healthy while allowing Salo to develop at the NHL level. It also gives the Islanders a reliable option on the third pair when Salo (or Aho and Hutton) can't be relied on in important games.
He should come relatively cheap, too. de Haan is coming off a four-year, $18.2 million contract, an AAV of $4.55 million. He's unlikely to receive that kind of term and dollars again, so why not sign him up on the cheap side? Despite taking a beating on his body, de Haan still blocked the fourth most shots in the NHL last season with 172. He can certainly help on the Islanders' penalty kill, something he specializes in, and knows how to keep the puck out of the net in his own end.
The Islanders could do a lot worse than de Haan as their sixth defenseman. A reunion makes sense and wouldn't cost Lamoriello much. So why not sign up the "Carp Lad" to solidify the Islanders' defense and help mentor the young Salo transitioning into a full-time NHL role?