The offseason has already been wild for the Calgary Flames, and that has just been in the front office. We haven’t even begun to see movement on the player side. The biggest talking point around the Flames right now is the futures of the 2024 unrestricted free agent class. That list consists of Elias Lindholm, Noah Hanifin, Tyler Toffoli, Chris Tanev, Mikael Backlund, Nikita Zadorov, and Oliver Kylington.
Hanifin’s future with the Flames looks to be coming to an end
There has been much speculation around Hanifin recently. This started when Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman described that Hanifin is “going to be available” while on Sportsnet960 earlier this week. TheAthletic’s Pierre LeBrun echoed this message in a written piece on Friday. He proclaimed “All signs point to defenceman Noah Hanifin not wanting to extend with the Flames, so that situation is likely headed for a trade.”
With the 2023 NHL Draft just under two weeks away, we could see a trade involving Hanifin soon. It’s important to note Hanifin can only officially extend with a new club on July 1, not beforehand. I’m going under the assumption that Hanifin would either agree to an extension under the table if a trade takes place before the draft. If not, the trade likely takes place on or after July 1st when Hanifin can officially extend. Also noteworthy that Hanifin has an eight-team no-trade clause, so he has a little bit of say in where he lands.
Teams who the Flames can trade Hanifin to
Let’s look at some of the potential landing spots and what a potential package could look like. I’m going to balance between packages geared towards futures and others that are geared towards winning now. The direction of the franchise is still unclear, especially if many of the 2024 UFA class want out. Note, I’ve excluded players with any sort of trade protection. Given that Calgary isn’t the most desirable place to play, they figure to be on quite a few no-trade lists at the moment.
In his introductory press conference, Kyle Dubas said not to bet against Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, and Mike Sullivan. He described the need to stay competitive while those players can still play, so it’s likely they make moves to add. If I was betting money on a landing spot for Hanifin, it would be to the Pittsburgh Penguins. He just makes sense from everything Dubas has said so far.
You get him now to compete with the likes of Crosby and his crew, while also keeping him in the fold long-term. The Penguins have a noteworthy opening on LD, with Brian Dumoulin headed to unrestricted free agency on July 1. Right now, the Penguins have over $20M in cap space, so fitting Hanifin in is easy. That number will definitely dwindle as they make decisions on Tristan Jarry, Jason Zucker, and others.
For Calgary, the Penguins offer a variety of pieces. They do have some forwards that might be of interest, but the only one without trade protection is Mikael Granlund, who isn’t particularly appealing. The Penguins do have some interesting young defenceman, such as Ty Smith, Pierre-Olivier Joseph, and prospect Owen Pickering. Add in the 14th overall pick in a deep draft, or their 2024 1st, and there’s definitely a package here. Also noteworthy that 2019 first-rounder Sam Poulin is a friend of Jakob Pelletier.
Win-now pieces: Mikael Granlund
Futures piece: 2023 1st (14th overall), 2024 1st, Owen Pickering, Samuel Poulin, Ty Smith, Pierre-Olivier Joseph, Tristan Broz
Trade Proposal: 2023 1st (14th overall), Ty Smith, Samuel Poulin for Noah Hanifin (agrees to extension)
St. Louis Blues
The St. Louis Blues are a tough trading partner almost all their players have trade protection of some sort. So, any deal with the Blues would be for strictly futures, unless someone is willing to waive. St Louis is in a transition phase right now, shipping out Ryan O’Reilly, Ivan Barbashev, and Vladimir Tarasenko at the deadline for future assets. But, the Blues are aggressive in using those assets to add to their lineup, as they were in the hunt to acquire Timo Meier at the deadline.
It’s been reported that the Blues are looking to re-shape their blueline that struggled last year. Enter Hanifin. It would be tough considering the Blues already have major cap commitments on long-term deals to Torey Krug, Colton Parayko, Justin Faulk, and Nick Leddy. All four have no-trade clauses, so it’ll be tough to move someone out. But if they can acquire Hanifin and push Leddy down the lineup, you make a very deep albeit expensive blueline.
The Blues have a very tantalizing package of futures, including three first-rounders this year, and a variety of good forward prospects. I think a deal surrounding one of those first-rounders, another pick, and one of the forward prospects makes sense. Maybe the Flames could get both the 25th and 29th overall picks this year? I doubt St Louis wants to move 10th overall. I also think Calgary could increase their return if they took on the last year of Scandella’s $3.275M contract—if he doesn’t have Calgary on his seven-team no-trade list.
Win-now pieces: None
Futures pieces: 2023 1sts (10th overall, 25th overall, 29th overall), Jake Neighbours, Zachary Bolduc, Jimmy Snuggerud, Zach Dean
Trade Proposal: 2023 1st (25th overall), 2024 2nd, one of Zachary Bolduc or Jake Neighbours for Noah Hanifin (agrees to extension)
The Panthers seem like a very obvious destination for Hanifin. First, he is very close friends with Matthew Tkachuk and Sam Bennett. Second, the Panthers have a massive need for left shot defence. In the playoffs, the Panthers ran a left side defence of Gustav Forsling, Marc Staal, and Josh Mahura. Given how many futures the Panthers have mortgaged over the last few years, any trade for Hanifin would be more win-now or hockey trade based. These teams just made a hockey trade last year, which was one of the biggest deals in recent memory. The Panthers possess a ton of good forwards, all of whom Calgary could use.
Anthony Duclair only has one year left on his deal, but he had great chemistry with Jonathan Huberdeau. He could be a spark Huberdeau needs to return to form. Reinhart also has a year left, but fits the bill for what Calgary needs in their top-six. The guy I would focus on acquiring from Florida is Anton Lundell, who is only 21 years old. The 12th overall pick in 2020, Lundell figures to have a long NHL career for as a top-six centre. With both Lindholm and Backlund’s futures with the Flames being in jeopardy, bringing in Lundell solidifies yourself at centre for the future.
My proposal sees the Panthers send two top-six forwards and a defence prospect in Nause to the Flames for Hanifin and Dube. I included Dube in their deal as he’s an RFA, like Lundell.
Win-now pieces: Sam Reinhart, Anthony Duclair, Anton Lundell
Futures pieces: Mackie Samoskevich, Evan Nause, Michael Benning
Trade Proposal: Anthony Duclair, Anton Lundell, Evan Nause for Noah Hanifin (agrees to extension) and Dillon Dube
This one is probably a long-shot, with Vancouver being a division rival and all. After buying out Oliver-Ekman Larsson yesterday, the Canucks did two things. One, they create a ton of cap space, as his cap hit of $7.26M suddenly turned into a cap hit of $147K. Two, the Canucks create an open spot on defence. The Canucks already needed defence before buying out OEL, so now that need is even greater. For some reason, the Canucks want to stay competitive, so one can assume they will either commit to someone in free agency—where the options aren’t plentiful—or go the trade route.
Vancouver doesn’t possess the most interesting assets, to be perfectly honest. Vancouver has a plethora of wingers, so a guy like Conor Garland or Brock Boeser could be included in the deal. Funny enough, Garland and Hanifin have the same AAV of $4.95M next year, so the contracts balance out. Vancouver has quite a few forward prospects that just haven’t taken that next step, including Nils Hoglander and Vasily Podkolzin.
I’ve put together a deal that I think makes sense, but I don’t love Vancouver as a trading partner. In the deal, Calgary gets Garland, a right shot RW who has three years left at the aforementioned $4.95M AAV, Vancouver’s first-rounder last year in RW Lekkerimaki, and two draft picks. It would probably be a tough sell to get the 11th overall pick this year, but that would make things much more appetizing for the Flames.
Win-now pieces: Conor Garland, Brock Boeser
Futures pieces: 2023 1st (11th overall), 2024 1st, Jonathan Lekkerimaki, Aatu Raty, Vasily Podkolzin, Nils Hoglander,
Trade Proposal: Conor Garland, Jonathan Lekkerimaki, 2024 1st, 2025 2nd for Noah Hanifin (agrees to extension)
The market for Hanifin is there
Elliotte Friedman has already mentioned the market for Noah Hanifin is going to be huge. Given the lacklustre options in free agency and limited trade options, I might be undervaluing what Hanifin is going to net the Flames, as 26-year old defencemen with 600+ career games behind their belt are a rare commodity. Ideally, I’d hope the Flames could get an A-level prospect, first-round pick, and second-round pick in return, assuming Hanifin agrees to an extension with his new club.
The team should also make it a priority to add defensive prospects, as they are lacking after expending their recent first rounders on forwards. If they go the hockey trade or win-now route, getting a top-six scoring winger is a need. We should be finding out in a matter of weeks, as the club heads for another summer of potential franchise altering moves.
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