Best Landing Spots for Flames’ Noah Hanifin amid Latest NHL Trade Rumors

Best Landing Spots for Flames’ Noah Hanifin amid Latest NHL Trade Rumors
Joe YerdonDecember 3, 2023

Best Landing Spots for Flames’ Noah Hanifin amid Latest NHL Trade Rumors

0 of 7

    CALGARY, AB - NOVEMBER 30: Noah Hanifin #55 of the Calgary Flames warms up against the Dallas Stars at Scotiabank Saddledome on November 30, 2023 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)

    Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images

    When the Calgary Flames traded defenseman Nikita Zadorov (to rival Vancouver of all places!) last week, it signaled that they were starting to understand the reality of their situation.

    No, not necessarily where they are in the standings—two points out of the wild card—but regarding their upcoming free agents, of which they have quite a few. Zadorov was one of three key soon-to-be UFAs on the blue line, and after he requested a trade, it was time to move on.

    But the next big defensive player of concern is Noah Hanifin. Like Zadorov and Chris Tanev, Hanifin is set to become a free agent on July 1 and hasn’t been able to get something worked out with the Flames.

    TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reported in mid-November that Calgary offered the 26-year-old an eight-year, nearly $60 million extension, but he wanted to see just where the team was headed before putting pen to paper. That led to the Flames pulling the offer and throwing everything up in the air.

    Even though Calgary is playing better hockey, the harsh truth is that even if it makes the playoffs, many of its possible free agents could walk away anyway, which would leave the Flames burned up with nothing to show for it. It’s almost a matter of when, not so much if, Hanifin is traded, and whether he’s moved with or without an extension in place, he’ll be one of the bigger names available.

    But where could he go? Let’s examine a few situations where Hanifin’s talents could be of big use in the near, or semi-distant, future.

Washington Capitals

1 of 7

    CALGARY, ALBERTA - DECEMBER 03: Noah Hanifin #55 of the Calgary Flames skates against Martin Fehervary #42 of the Washington Capitals at Scotiabank Saddledome on December 03, 2022 in Calgary, Alberta. (Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)

    Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images

    The Washington Capitals have been one of the league’s sneaky surprises so far. They’re in the playoff race and are winning games even though a lot of their statistics say they probably shouldn’t be doing so as much as they have.

    That kind of thing usually means regression will take hold…unless they do something to adjust the situation. They’ve been one of the poorer puck-possession teams this season (sixth-lowest shot-attempt percentage at five-on-five), and they’ve shown they’ve missed Dmitry Orlov on the blue line ever since they dealt him last season.

    Hanifin’s 51.3 shot attempts-for percentage would be best on the Capitals, ahead of team leader Martin Fehervary (50.1 percent), and his 12 points would be two back of Caps leader John Carlson.

    Making a deal would be tricky for the Capitals because they’re thin on top prospects (although slowly stockpiling better players), and if Calgary is making a trade like this, that’s likely what it would be hunting for—that and pick(s). The Capitals should have the kind of cap space needed to extend Hanifin moving into the future as well, and with Anthony Mantha also on an expiring deal, that could help make the money work for this season.

Arizona Coyotes

2 of 7

    CALGARY, ALBERTA - APRIL 16: Noah Hanifin #55 of the Calgary Flames skates against Barrett Hayton #29 of the Arizona Coyotes at Scotiabank Saddledome on April 16, 2022 in Calgary, Alberta. (Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)

    Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images

    The Arizona Coyotes are yet another team that’s opened eyes this season with their excellent start and hard-working play. The pesky ‘Yotes wear down teams with their dogged ability to hound pucks and outwork opponents on any given night.

    While they’ve got a very strong group of forwards, their defense corps is lacking some punch outside Sean Durzi and J.J. Moser. Durzi leads Arizona defenders with 12 points, and Moser is right behind him with 11. Next best is the trio of Matt Dumba, Juuso Valimaki and Michael Kesselring with four points each. That’s not ideal.

    Making the case stronger to bring in Hanifin is how Durzi (49.9) and Moser (49.7) are the Coyotes’ top puck-possessors per shot-attempts-for percentages, while their other regulars are all under 45 percent. Hanifin posting better than 51 percent in Calgary immediately shows how he’d be a serious improvement in the desert.

    Better still, the Coyotes are never in salary-cap hell and could absolutely afford to extend Hanifin long-term. The catch here is whether Arizona would be on Hanifin’s eight team no-trade list. Considering how the Coyotes are on the rise with a young team and the Phoenix area is basically heaven for hockey players in winter, it would be tough to say no to going there, arena stuff aside.

Philadelphia Flyers

3 of 7

    PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - NOVEMBER 21:  Noah Hanifin #55 of the Calgary Flames skates against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center on November 21, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

    Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

    One of the ways the Philadelphia Flyers have become a solid rising team in the Eastern Conference is the play of Travis Sanheim on defense. His emergence in leading Philly’s blue line while generating points and holding solid possession is showing how John Tortorella’s group can lead the way from the back end out.

    One thing Sanheim could stand to have, however, is some help on defense. The Flyers have gotten Rasmus Ristolainen back from injury, and that’s helped out a little bit. But giving them another strong two-way defender who can move the puck would further solidify a unit that’s been very good this year.

    The Flyers’ advanced numbers at five-on-five throughout their defense corps have been superb, but it’s come at the cost of having Sanheim average nearly 26 minutes of ice time per game.

    His 25:57 is the highest mark in the NHL, and he’s one of seven defensemen averaging 25 minutes or more per game. That kind of burden is a lot to ask of any player, and Philadelphia adding Hanifin would allow the Flyers to have another player capable of playing 20-plus minutes per game to help take pressure off Sanheim.

    There is the question of cost both in players and picks to make a deal but also the salary cap. An extension could be done feasibly, as they’re looking at around $20 million in cap space next season. Even this year, they could make things happen with ease because they could put Ryan Ellis back on LTIR to free up more than $6 million to use.

    Of course, the Flyers are in a good spot right now, and this team has grown together under Tortorella, so adding a player from the outside who may not be prepared for the coach’s tough style could go sideways. But…the lure of the postseason can make funny things happen.

Boston Bruins

4 of 7

    CALGARY, AB - FEBRUARY 28: Noah Hanifin #55 of the Calgary Flames prepares to face off against the Boston Bruins at Scotiabank Saddledome on February 28, 2023 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)

    Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images

    For as good as the Boston Bruins have been, they could stand to use a little extra help on defense. When it comes to puck possession, yes, Hampus Lindholm and Charlie McAvoy have been outstanding, as you’d expect. But beyond them, everyone else has been rather average.

    When you break things down just by points, McAvoy is head and shoulders above his teammates with 15 points, while Lindholm and Brandon Carlo each have six points. Adding Hanifin to the Bruins, while also seeming wildly unfair, would give them a huge lift on the blue line.

    Hanifin plays a ton of minutes, is a strong puck possessor and generates offense well. There’s also the part where we mention that Hanifin is from Boston and spent one season at Boston College before he was drafted by Carolina in 2015.

    Making a trade for Hanifin could be really tricky for the Bruins because they’re pressed up against the salary cap ceiling and without an LTIR life preserver to cushion the blow. Getting him signed to a long-term extension, however, could be a bit easier to do, although they do have some key players who could be UFAs this summer (Jake DeBrusk, Matt Grzelcyk, Derek Forbort), so they’d have to make some tough choices.

    It’s a move that makes sense in a lot of ways for the Bruins, but it would definitely give off big-time “rich get richer” vibes if they pulled it off.

Toronto Maple Leafs

5 of 7

    TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 10: John Tavares #91 of the Toronto Maple Leafs plays the puck agaistn Noah Hanifin #55 of the Calgary Flames during the first period at the Scotiabank Arena on November 10, 2023 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images)

    Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images

    Speaking of rich teams, the Toronto Maple Leafs landing Hanifin would be a great move for them.

    The Leafs are led by Morgan Rielly on defense, and while he’s having another strong season, he’s not getting a ton of help on the blue line. He also has defensive teammates dropping out of the lineup like mad because of injuries (Timothy Liljegren, Mark Giordano, John Klingberg).

    There is something the Maple Leafs have going for them that other teams do not should they pursue Hanifin. Leafs GM Brad Treliving was Hanifin’s GM in Calgary, and that preexisting relationship might help make negotiating an extension a little bit easier. That leads into a different issue: Toronto doesn’t have the best cap situation.

    The Leafs are already using up most of their LTIR allotment to keep their lineup full as it is, and making a deal for Hanifin would likely mean dealing someone to help loosen that up. Defense is still a weakness, and adding Hanifin would go a long, long way to improving that situation, but they’ve been reluctant to make a splash move.

    Going beyond that, if they wanted to get Hanifin extended, Toronto still has impending UFA William Nylander to get re-signed. T.J. Brodie, Tyler Bertuzzi and Max Domi can all be free agents this summer as well, so that would open up a lot of money if they didn’t bring them back, but it’s not impossible for Toronto to get something long-term done with Hanifin…it’s the current salary situation that makes the initial trade difficult to pull off.

Minnesota Wild

6 of 7

    CALGARY, AB - DECEMBER 07: Calgary Flames Defenceman Noah Hanifin (55) skates up the ice with the puck during the third period of an NHL game between the Calgary Flames and the Minnesota Wild on December 7, 2022, at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, AB. (Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    While we’ve seen the Flames make one trade with a Western Conference rival, the thought of making yet another deal with one involving Hanifin seems like it would be difficult to pull the trigger on. But if they’re willing to do it, the Minnesota Wild should be eager to get involved.

    The Wild have a strong setup on defense with Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin and Brock Faber, but outside them it gets a little bit shaky. Adding Hanifin would give the Wild a top four on defense that could do it all extremely well.

    For as hard of a time as the Wild have had this year, they’re also getting poor offensive production from their defense. Jake Middleton is their top scorer on the blue line with 10 points, with Brodin (9) and Faber (8) behind him. Beyond that it gets sparse. When it comes to puck possession, the Wild have been a bit below average, and Hanifin would change that in a big way by playing big minutes.

    What makes this move even more difficult for Minnesota is how it’s still on the hook next season for more than $14 million in dead-cap money from the Ryan Suter and Zach Parise buyouts. It’ll be the final year the combined costs are that harsh, which would mean getting a Hanifin extension done would be really difficult for next season but a bit easier beyond that.

    Of course, they’d have to find a way to make cap space, and with Alex Goligoski and Marc-André Fleury due to be free agents in the summer, that would free up some money, but the Wild would still have the rest of the roster to get figured out too.

    Of course, this discussion could be dead on arrival as it is because the Wild have gotten off to such a terrible start that they might not be in any position to make a big deal like this. Then again, GM Bill Guerin doesn’t really abide by norms.

Tampa Bay Lightning

7 of 7

    TAMPA, FLORIDA - JANUARY 06: Noah Hanifin #55 and Dan Vladar #80 of the Calgary Flames make the second period stop against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Amalie Arena on January 06, 2022 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    The Tampa Bay Lightning boast two of the best defensemen in the NHL in Victor Hedman and Mikhail Sergachev. They’ve also got Erik Cernak and… they’ve got some other guys too. They’ve made the best of their defense corps and their salary-cap situation by patching holes with younger players and veterans eager to play for a winner.

    While that’s good enough to maintain the status quo, it’s not good enough to help them rise above the bulk of the teams fighting for the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. Their advanced numbers are relatively strong, like they always have been under coach Jon Cooper. On defense, their big-minute players have respectably handled the hardest matchups around the league.

    This is where adding a player like Hanifin would allow them to strengthen their overall top four on defense and help them create mismatches down the lineup. The Lightning have been able to do that by having Hedman and Sergachev on separate pairings, teaming them with guys who might otherwise struggle. Again, smart coaching pays, but having top talent makes smart coaching look that much better.

    Making a deal would be difficult, however. The Lightning are light on top picks the next couple of years, and their prospect pipeline is more difficult for them to dip into. The Bolts also have a lot of big-time salary commitments in the years ahead, which would make an extension difficult to do as well, unless they find ways to part with other guys with big money and term.

    But listen, we’re about the ideas here, and the idea of adding Hanifin to the Lightning blue line corps sounds like a great plan.

Read More

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *