Noah Hanifin‘s name has come up in trade rumours for months now. In the offseason, it was reported that Hanifin, along with most of the other Calgary Flames’ pending free agents, was not interested in extending his time with the team. Then with the start of the season, it seemed his tune had changed, and he got very close to inking a long-term extension with the Flames.
But that fell apart with the Flames’ slow start. The team pulled back on all its extension negotiations to pause and re-evaluate after a dismal start to the season. Now, trade rumours are flying again.
Elliotte Friedman even wrote in his 32 Thoughts column that he suspects the San Jose Sharks and Arizona Coyotes have called on the 26-year-old defenceman. With the Flames’ lacklustre record pushing them into deadline-seller territory, they have no choice but to consider offers on the player.
Luckily for the Flames, a young but highly experienced and coveted top-four defenceman will garner a high return in the trade market.
Hanifin is an attractive trade chip
It’s not every day a legitimate top-four defenceman becomes available on the trade market. It’s even more rare for that player to be just 26 years old and already have over 600 games under his belt. But that’s Noah Hanifin.
He has been steady at both ends of the rink for most of his career, and more than that has a solid offensive upside. His career-high in points is 48, set two seasons ago. But more interestingly, he has never had fewer than 22 points, even in his rookie season. His consistency is impressive, and attractive for potential trade suitors.
His wins above replacement from Evolving-Hockey.com also reflect his steady presence and his potential.
Excluding his rookie season, he’s never had a season below replacement level.
On top of his performance, Hanifin costs just $4.95 million for the rest of the year, before he’ll be due a new contract as an unrestricted free agent. No doubt he will command a big return for the Flames.
Assessing Hanifin’s trade value
But what will that return look like? There are a few past trades we can look to to try and project a potential return for Noah Hanifin. A few players who have been traded in similar positions are Jakob Chychrun, Hampus Lindholm, Ivan Provorov, Devon Toews, and Travis Hamonic (when he was traded to the Flames).
None are perfect comparisons, but they’re close enough to be used to gauge the market to an extent. Given the news surrounding the team that a new direction will be taken if the team continues to struggle, it’s a safe bet the return will be future picks and prospects rather than roster players. Most of those players were traded in the same situation.
For a few examples, the Coyotes received a first- and two second-round draft picks for Chychrun. Lindholm earned the Ducks a whopping return of a first-round draft pick, two second-round picks, a fairly promising young player in Urho Vaakanainen, and John Moore. The Ducks retained 50% of Lindholm’s contract for the remainder of the season.
Going back a ways to the 2017 offseason, the Flames traded a first and two second-round picks to the New York Islanders for the services of Travis Hamonic. Hamonic’s playstyle is quite a bit different than Hanifin’s, but at the time of the deal, Hamonic was playing a top-four role, and was also 26 years old.
Considering these deals, the Flames should expect to receive at least a first-round draft pick (or equivalent prospect), along with a second-round draft pick, or equivalent prospect.
Projecting a potential deal
Based on Elliotte Friedman’s comments, we know that at least the Coyotes are interested. We also know the Sharks called, but there wasn’t a good fit. Friedman has also mentioned several times that Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brad Treliving would look to his old team for defence if the Leafs struggle, and they have.
Hanifin to Toronto
In a potential deal with Toronto, salary retention seems inevitable. The Leafs are infamously cap-strapped with their high-cost core four and are also infamously in perpetual need of improvements on the back end.
Hanifin could be part of the solution there. Based on the trade comparisons above, here’s what a deal with Toronto might look like.
|Calgary Receives||Toronto Receives|
|Leafs’ 2024 first round pick||Noah Hanifin (50% retained salary)|
The Leafs are short on upcoming draft picks but have solid prospects in the pipeline, including 2023 first-rounder Easton Cowan. This deal essentially works out to Hanifin for two first-round picks, helping the Flames reset their roster, and giving the Leafs a stable presence on the backend.
Salary is an issue here. As of today, this would put the Leafs over the cap. But, between now and deadline day, with some careful cap management, the Leafs could accumulate the necessary space. The Leafs could involve a third team to further retain salary as well if they are really dedicated to acquiring Hanifin.
Another alternative would be to add salary coming back to Calgary. With the space cleared up by losing Hanifin, the Flames could take on an expiring deal back from the Leafs to help make the cap work.
Hanifin to the desert
The Coyotes are a surprising team. Looking past the constant off-ice distractions, they are quietly a team on the rise. With Clayton Keller, Nick Schmaltz, an array of talented young defencemen, and solid goaltending, they’re trending up, and a relatively young player like Hanifin could fit the mould.
Unlike the Leafs, this could be a straightforward deal. The ‘Yotes have plenty of cap space, plenty of draft picks, and plenty of prospects. Considering they also recently traded their own left-shot top-four defenceman in Chychrun, they have an idea of what this sort of deal takes, too.
|Calgary Receives||Arizona Receives|
|Coyote’s 2024 second-round pick||Noah Hanifin (50% retained salary)|
|Capitals 2024 second-round pick*|
|Capitals 2024 second round pick*|
If a deal is done with the Coyotes, they have lots of picks, but likely won’t be willing to part with a top ten slot. Adding a condition that allows the pick to slide back a year if it’s in the top ten, along with the other draft picks, seems like fair value for both sides.
Getting a haul for Hanifin
These are the two teams who make the most sense, but as the season goes on and the split between buyers and sellers becomes more clear, watch for more teams to start calling on Hanifin if the Flames continue to struggle.
One thing is certain. Win or lose, the Flames will be an interesting team to follow throughout the year. With so many potential trade chips, even a disappointing playoff miss will be sure to have intriguing storylines throughout the year.
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire