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Calgary Flames Exec Dave Nonis Taking Long Look at Bruins – Analyzing a Potential Noah Hanifin Trade



Noah Hanifin

Update: Per Elliotte Friedman, Noah Hanifin will not be extending with the Calgary Flames. The market is officially open on the defenseman.

While Flames fans in Calgary have been enjoying a relatively mild winter in terms of snowfall, Senior VP of Hockey Operations and Assistant General Manager Dave Nonis has been bogged down in the middle of a 28cm February in Massachusetts.  

His mission?  

Take in the perennially contending Boston Bruins – a team heavily rumored to be interested in acquiring Flames defenceman Noah Hanifin. Saturday’s 5-4 Kings victory over the Bruins marked Nonis’s third consecutive viewing of the Bruins. 

Per Jimmy Murphy of Boston Hockey Now, the two teams have been in talks throughout the season regarding the Boston College alumni. 

With fans and media left in the dark regarding Hanifin’s willingness to re-sign and no announcement of a contract after so much time waiting for Noah’s decision to become public – the odds of an extension are becoming increasingly slim. 

The 27-year-old pending UFA spoke to Eric Francis of Sportsnet on the matter on Feb. 9. 

“It’s a huge decision, and my family plays a huge part in that,” 

“My fiancée, my parents, my brother and sisters were all home, so I was able to discuss with them the whole situation because obviously, it’s going to be coming to a head sooner rather than later.” 

In terms of on-ice play, Hanifin has been showcased to an extent since the team resumed play following the All-Star break. His minutes have jumped from 23:30 per game in the first 49 games to 26:01 in five games since Feb. 6. Over those six outings, Noah has been shifted to the first power play unit and has a goal and four assists.

Known for his high-end transition play and breakneck speed, Hanifin’s nine goals and 21 assists puts the six-year Flame on pace for the second best offensive season of his career.

His pace of 13 goals and 31 assist for 44 points would only slightly fall short of the 48 recorded during the notorious 2021-2022 season when Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm, and Matthew Tkachuk set the league on fire for 304 combined points.

Noah Hanifin

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Mapping a Potential Deal

We have the necessary conditions to connect the dots leading to a Hanifin deal. The question now becomes, what could the Boston Bruins offer in return for the top pairing blueliner? Today, we’re going to analyze a move that checks all the boxes in terms of Boston and Calgary’s needs on the trade market.


To the Boston Bruins

LD – Noah Hanifin 

To the Calgary Flames 

LD – Matt Grzelcyk
C/W – Matthew Poitras
C/W – Georgii Merkulov


Let’s take a look at the players coming back in what would make sense as a return for the 27-year-old smooth skating Noah Hanifin.

The Return

Matthew Poitras – C/W 

Age: 19 Height: 5’11” Weight: 181lbs
Games Played: 33
Goals: 5
Assists: 10
Points: 15 

Cap Hit: $870,000 for two more seasons after 2023-2024.

Shoulder injuries have been a frequent topic surrounding the Calgary Flames.

Whether it’s Kevin Rooney and Jakob Pelletier busting their wing in preseason and coming back in early February, Andrew Mangiapane finding out via “precautionary MRI” that he needed offseason surgery after last season, or Milan Lucic’s longstanding ailment for the majority of the 2022-2023 regular season following a hit received from Oilers forward Josh Archibald in the playoffs; the Flames medical staff certainly has a recurring theme behind closed doors. 

19-year-old Matthew Piotras would fit right into that dynamic after getting surgery on his right shoulder on Feb. 7.  

“Matthew Poitras underwent a successful right shoulder open stabilization (Latarjet) procedure today, February 7,” said Boston Bruins Medical Director Peter Asnis in a press release. 

Per Murphy, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney made a statement on Piotras following news breaking that the rookie would need surgery.  

“Matt has been an important part of our team’s success thus far, and he will be missed. Our medical staff made the recommendation for Matt to proceed with the surgery rather than continue playing with an unstable shoulder and risking further damage. Everyone involved supported the decision to do what was best for him at this time. Matt is just starting his Bruins career and is a key part of our future.” 

Ok. Injured 19-year-old. A five month timeline to return. What kind of a player is the 54th overall pick in 2022? 

Poitras managed to make the team out of camp by combining high hockey IQ plays and concise execution. The former member of the Guelph Storm picks his spots well when it comes to utilizing the danger areas and tends to get his goals from in-tight.  


If you’re looking for a comparable, Sean Monahan certainly comes to mind in terms of game approach in the offensive zone. Poitras has a similar level of poise and patience as Connor Zary, who isn’t afraid to walk the puck in and attempt a deke at lower speeds. In terms of a 200-foot game, Poitras is coming along well enough, considering his age, but has to get stronger to suit the rigors of an 82-game regular season.

We have our centerpiece. Even if he is a steal of a second round pick in 2022, it’s unlikely that Poitras is the sole asset in a trade for a top pairing 27-year-old defender. Conroy likely has his eye on another player close to carving out a regular spot in the NHL.


Georgii Merkulov – C/W 

Age: 23 Height: 5’11” Weight: 179lbs
AHL Games Played: 44
Goals: 18
Assists: 26
Points: 44 

Cap Hit: $925,000 for one more season after 2023-2024. 

After already making a move for both Yegor Sharangovich and Andrei Kuzmenko since being promoted to general manager on March 23, it appears that Craig Conroy is looking for volume shooters. 23-year-old Georgii Merkulov can certainly shoot.    


With 44 points in 44 AHL games, the NCAA signee sits in 5th place across the league. It’s safe to say that the offence is coming along nicely for the Ryazan, Russia product. According to Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery, rounding out Merkulov’s 200-foot game is the next step.   

That initiative is coming along steadily. Per Murphy, Montgomery spoke on the Russian’s defensive aspects in late December after receiving an update from Providence Bruins head coach Ryan Mougenel.

“The most promising things we’re hearing is how quickly he’s closing in the D-zone and how his 200-foot game has really upticked,” 

“And it’s not surprising that you hear about someone’s 200-foot game getting better, and he’s second in the league in scoring. Like, yesterday, we had seven odd-man rushes, and five of them came from good defense. Good defense leads to offense.” 

Merkulov will continue to take steps at the AHL level as he waits for his shot to seize a permanent NHL role. The 2022-2023 member of the AHL All-Rookie Team (alongside Calgary Wrangler Jeremie Poirier) has zero points in four NHL games this season while averaging 10:35 of ice time.  

We have the youth aspect of the trade, but with just $862,500 in cap space, Sweeney likely needs to move out an NHLer to capacitate a deal for Hanifin.  


Matt Grzelcyk – D  

Age: 30 Height: 5’10” Weight: 180lbs
Games Played: 41
Goals: 2
Assists: 5
Points: 7 

Cap Hit: $3,687,500 until the end of the season. 

With a point total in the single digits and an ice time per game of 17:33, ranking him fifth among Bruins defencemen, it would be easy to write off the 30-year-old’s addition to the trade as a cap dump.  

There is more to it than that.  

The organization certainly has faith in the Charlestown, Massachusetts product. When he’s healthy, he plays top pairing minutes on the left side with Charlie MacAvoy.  

Nagging injuries have brought a confidence drain that may necessitate a change of scenery for the Boston University grad. His +4 rating at even strength (a +7 projection over a full season) may be the most significant indicator of that effect. The 2012 third round pick finished last season in second place across the NHL in that category at +46.  

Perhaps Grzelcyk finds a fit with the Calgary Flames. Matthew may also get traded twice in one season following a Hanifin blockbuster. Jimmy Murphy had the ear of a Northeast-based NHL pro scout in late September and confirmed that teams had expressed interest in the puck-moving left defenceman.

“I don’t really know about Forbort, but I can tell you that teams are interested in Grzelcyk,” the scout told Boston Hockey Now during the preseason.


Moving Forward

Following a disheartening 5-0 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday afternoon, the Flames are now drawing back to a perfect .500 points percentage with a record of 25-25-5. Sitting at an even point per game clip in the standings has Ryan Huska’s crew on pace for an 82-point finish.  

With the season slipping and the Flames currently on a three-game losing streak, Craig Conroy’s resolution to not let pending unrestricted free agents walk will come to a boiling point as the March 8 NHL Trade Deadline approaches. Only time will tell if the Bruins and Flames can agree to send Noah Hanifin to a new organization.  

But with Flames Assistant GM Dave Nonis spending so much time focusing on only one of 31 other teams in the NHL you have to wonder if there is any fire to all of that smoke.