The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun reported Friday that the Calgary Flames’ Noah Hanifin is unlikely to extend with the team. Despite having Travis Sanheim and Cam York on the roster, the Flyers should still consider making a move for the defenseman.
The Calgary Flames are in a bit of a pickle when it comes to cap space and roster construction, and it seems that their failures are starting to catch up to them. Just one year removed from the Matthew Tkachuk trade that brought Jonathan Huberdeau and Mackenzie Weegar to Calgary, the Flames missed the playoffs entirely and now have a brand new head coach and general manager. Former head coach Darryl Sutter’s erratic, unprofessional, and destructive behavior contributed to his downfall in Calgary, as did his unfathomably poor roster management. Sutter was so awful as a coach that multiple Flames reportedly rescinded their trade requests. Still, Sutter’s dismissal doesn’t seem to have stopped Noah Hanifin from looking for a new home.
The Calgary Flames are entering the 2023-24 season with just $1.25 million in cap space, and will need to sign or call up at least one more forward. Trevor Lewis, Milan Lucic, and Nick Ritchie are all pending free agents, and the Flames have exactly six defensemen on the roster, not including Troy Stecher and Michael Stone, who are also slated to hit the market. Defenseman Oliver Kylington should be back for the Flames next season, but has just one year remaining on his contract like teammate Noah Hanifin. The Flames’ roster is badly hamstrung by a slew of awful contracts, including those given out to Huberdeau, Nazem Kadri, Blake Coleman, Andrew Mangiapane, Mikael Backlund, and Jacob Markstrom. They are all great players and have good days and bad days, but they just make too much relative to their abilities. That will end up costing the Flames star defenseman Noah Hanifin and more down the line.
Noah Hanifin is an excellent defenseman, but he’s not quite what a number one defender on a championship caliber team should be. That won’t stop defense-needy contenders from placing a call to Craig Conroy and making an offer for Hanifin’s services. Since the Calgary Flames missed the playoffs, they will be picking 16th overall in this year’s draft. They currently lack a third-round pick in this year’s draft, and in a draft as deep as this, they would certainly be interested in more first and second-round picks. The Flyers do not have a second-round pick this year, but it seems likely that a draft pick offered for Hanifin will start with a one and not a two.
As it stands, there is a laundry list of teams that can and will inquire about Noah Hanifin. Some contending teams that can afford to part ways with their/a first-round pick include the Detroit Red Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins, Seattle Kraken, and the New York Rangers. The Red Wings aren’t quite contenders yet, but finding an adequate defense partner for superstar Moritz Seider is an important first step towards that. The Pittsburgh Penguins’ trio of Kris Letang, Sidney Crosby, and Evgeni Malkin are starting to be on their last legs, and their window to compete for a Stanley Cup is closing sharply. Tristan Jarry is also not expected to return, so they won’t have a starting goaltender for the time being either. The Kraken need to re-sign Vince Dunn and they already have Jamie Oleksiak, but Hanifin would be a massive upgrade over the latter with Carson Soucy headed towards free agency. The Rangers might not be able to keep K’Andre Miller, Alexis Lafreniere, Vladimir Tarasenko, and Patrick Kane, but at least Hanifin has a year left on his deal at a $4.95 million cap hit. The Toronto Maple Leafs also have a first-round pick, but might be willing to instead sacrifice a forward like William Nylander to upgrade their defense.
How does Noah Hanifin fit the Philadelphia Flyers?
The Flyers recently acquired the 22nd overall pick in the 2023 NHL Draft in the trade that sent Ivan Provorov to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Hanifin, however, is a much better player than Provorov. Provorov was also drafted two spots after Hanifin in the 2015 NHL Draft. At this point in time, it would seem unwise to flip the 22nd pick for Hanifin in what would essentially become a lateral move, but Hanifin’s cost might not be what it seems on the surface. The issue for Hanifin and the Flames is that Hanifin has only one year remaining on his deal, and will be eligible for unrestricted free agency after that. Any team that acquires Hanifin without an extension already set in place runs the risk of losing Hanifin for free in the summer. That alone could be enough to scare aging contenders and teams with decently high picks away from making that kind of offer.
The Philadelphia Flyers have two third-round picks the Flames can use, which would be a minimal investment. This could also instantly make the left side of the Flyers defense a strength, provided Noah Hanifin extends. The Flyers can bet on a bounce-back season from Travis Sanheim and a breakout year from Cam York. Adding Hanifin to the equation means less emphasis on making substantial upgrades to the right side of the defense, and more emphasis on improving the subpar forward group. The forward group could get worse if Travis Konecny does in fact get traded, which means the importance of the Flyers holding on to their two first-round picks is even greater.
A lot will have to go right for Noah Hanifin to end up with the Philadelphia Flyers, but his skillset is good enough that Daniel Briere and the Flyers should at least consider him as a trade option in the coming weeks.