Over the past week, reports have come out from the national level heavy hitters like Elliotte Friedman and Pierre LeBrun that Calgary defender Noah Hanifin is the latest Flames impending free agent (in 2024) that doesn’t wish to sign an extension there. New Flames GM Craig Conroy has made it be known that it is a priority to trade his top free-agents-to-be if they can’t come to a contract agreement to extend.
Thus, Hanifin will likely be traded in the future, possibly very near future with the busiest part of NHL’s off-season period about to begin next week starting with the draft.
Hanifin is the type of player that all 32 teams should be interested in. He is only 26 years old, but already has almost 600 games of NHL experience coming off being a top-5 pick in 2015. His size is ideal at 6’3, 207 pounds. His game is well-rounded as an excellent skater whose puck moving impacts would make any team better because he can play 22-23 minutes per game against the opponent’s best player and help his team out at even strength, on the power play and as a regular penalty killer.
Therein, of course, also lies the hitch for any team interested; because Hanifin is so good and at an ideal age and spot in his career, there will be no shortage of interested parties. This led Friedman to state somewhat of the obvious when he pointed out that Calgary is well-positioned to get a “really nice” return back for when they send Hanifin out.
What might “really nice” mean? That is near-impossible to say given the way that NHL general managers tend to assign value to different types of defensemen. It can be all over the map and vary from person to person as to just how much the market holds.
However, as mentioned above, Hanifin is going to check almost every box for almost every type of manager: he’s got great advanced stats while simultaneously looking solid to more traditional eye tests. Hanifin has the boxcar stats covered after the last two impressive season where he’s stepped up his production and scored a total of 17 goals and added 69 assists. He has a resume on video that proves solid play. In essence, he’s just about everything to everyone when it comes to being a very capable and desirable top-of-the-lineup defenseman.
While Hanifin will definitely be on the trade market, the player’s say in the matter will mean something too. Just as Matthew Tkachuk did with Calgary last year last year, Hanifin certainly has the option to indicate that he is only interested in signing an extension right now with a handful of teams and essentially cut the ability or reasoning for other teams to trade for him. Surely all 32 teams would want him on their team in a perfect world, but between cap situations and player choice, that list will be getting cut down in a hurry.
That part likely would have to be in play, since the Penguins don’t have the trade ammunition to present an offer over and above what other teams across the league could. Pittsburgh could and would have to pay a fair price, items like 2022 first round pick Owen Pickering and/or the 14th overall pick in 2023 would almost surely be going back to Calgary.
Package both together, add in a token mid-round pick and that type of deal comparable to what Edmonton gave up for Mattias Ekholm (who is older, but also under contract for longer) in terms of a past first round pick and a future one. Ivan Provorov recently got traded, in essence, for a first and second rounder, and is probably a notch below Hanifin as a player. Last year at the draft Alex Romanov (younger, lesser player but more team contract control) fetched 13th overall and at the last deadline Filip Hronek got dealt with a fourth rounder in exchange for future first and second picks.
With that in mind, the likelihood of Hanifin to Pittsburgh being a real possibility probably depends on Hanifin telling the Flames that the Penguins are one of a handful of preferred locations. Or the Pens reaching out to Hanifin’s representatives to let them know in the tampering-but-not-really way common in the NHL about what his next contract would be if he did help facilitate the trade. Either way, just as well in the murky world of sign-and-trades. Is it likely? Maybe, maybe not.
Giving up a big trade price, plus then a rich contract extension for Hanifin would be major costs in a couple of different regards. However, at 26, Hanifin fits perfectly for the vision Kyle Dubas has when he said he wanted to improve the team now, and also make moves with an eye to set the Penguins up in the post-Sidney Crosby era down the line. Making Hanifin a part of that vision for the next nine years via a trade and contract extension would go a long way to putting a key part in place.
But with so many other teams circling, and it still being unknown how likely Hanifin would be to want to join the Pens in the first place, it won’t be an easy task to accomplish either.