Calgary Flames defenceman Noah Hanifin is one of those NHL players who can be both over- and underrated simultaneously.
Few would argue that he’s not one of the top young defencemen in the league. At 26 years old, he’s cemented his status as a strong two-way defender who can make a clean outlet pass, lead a rush, or be trusted to get his stick in good position more often than not.
But the times he didn’t, and was exposed for a team positioning glitch, he carried the brunt of criticism from casual observers.
That’s why there seems to be little anguish at the reports that Hanfin’s time with the Flames may have run its course. Indeed, an NHL trade seems to be in store with the draft approaching and a feeling the soon-to-be free agent will not sign an extension to stay in Calgary.
And considering the strength of the position for a Flames franchise that one year ago would have been considered among the league’s elite if all were healthy and accounted for, this is probably the perfect time to cash in on Hanifin’s reputation as one of the NHL’s best blueliners.
Hanifin had seven goals and 38 points in 81 games last season. The stats were a bit underwhelming, but only because of the expectations heaped upon him after finishing with 10 goals and two points shy of 50 the previous year.
He’s been a top-pairing player for five seasons with the Calgary Flames and was part of former GM Brad Treliving’s best trade. With a year remaining in a very reasonable cap hit, any extension will be costly and the Flames are looking at a tight cap situation already.
With MacKenzie Weegar’s impressive showing in Team Canada’s golden performance at the World Championship, he could elevate to the top pairing alongside Rasmus Andersson next season.
And with the expected return of Oliver Kylington, who played well with Chris Tanev two seasons ago, the second tier remains solid.
Nikita Zadorov and a returning veteran UFA like Troy Stecher or Michael Stone and another depth guy like Dennis Gilbert would offer less spectacular depth but perhaps allow more balance. The Flames have long been searching for more dynamic offensive talent and parting with Hanifin could make that possible either through an existing NHLer and/or top prospect coming to Calgary in the trade package.
And the trade package should be a good one given the market for defencemen of Hanifin’s age, experience and accomplishment.
Sometimes a parting of ways is what’s best for both a player and a franchise and this may be one of those times.