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Tampa Bay Lightning Trade Deadline: Flames Star Defenceman

Noah Hanifin extension

The Tampa Bay Lightning trade deadline will be interesting to watch this season. Over the last several seasons, they’ve been active with deals. It started with Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow. More recently, it has been Tanner Jeannot and Michael Eyssimont. This season, there is a question of what the Lightning should do; buy or sell? Here at Last Word, Kyle Pereira and Jack Pallotta will start a series where they look at some potential trades. Let’s say they buy, who do they get? What do they give up? Today, we look at Noah Hanifin of the Calgary Flames. He remains an intriguing trade target for the Lightning to add on the back end.

Disclaimer: The players featured in these articles aren’t always linked to the Lightning but have been made available in some capacity this season. These pieces are observing whether Tampa Bay should target them and what the cost would be if they did.

Tampa Bay Lightning Trade Deadline: Noah Hanifin

After a historical performance throughout the 2021-22 season, the Flames have struggled to reach that level of play over the past two years. The team dynamic altered after Johnny Gaudreau signed with the Columbus Blue Jackets in free agency. Furthermore, Matthew Tkachuk joined the Florida Panthers in a blockbuster deal. The Flames received Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar in return, but Huberdeau’s production has fallen off a cliff after he departed from the Sunshine State. However, what do past transactions have to do with Hanifin?

The significance behind the events stated above lays the foundation for the situation at hand in 2024. Many Calgary roster players have requested trades or openly announced their interest in not re-signing with the organization. First, Elias Lindholm got traded to the Vancouver Canucks as the first domino. Hanifin ultimately announced he is not open to re-signing with the Flames. Moreover, David Pagnotta has linked Hanifin to Tampa Bay. However, do the Lightning have the assets to target a star like Hanifin at the trade deadline?

Hanifin Scouting Report

The 5th overall pick from the stacked 2015 NHL entry draft turned his career around with the Flames. After his first three seasons with the team that drafted him, Hanifin joined Calgary before the 2018-19 season. With over 650 games of NHL experience, Hanifin has 58 goals and 210 assists for 268 points. His career-best totals came during the 2021-22 run, where Hanifin notched ten goals and 48 points in 81 games. This year, he has nine goals and 29 points in 53 games. In addition, Hanifin is on pace to set a career-high in goals and projects to finish with roughly 45 points.

Hanifin is a jack-of-all-trades archetype, plays a solid two-way game, elite skating ability, and much more. While his production is not among the NHL’s elite defencemen, he can help provide the secondary offence the Lightning desperately need from the back end. Moreover, Hanifin has no weaknesses in his game. Many analysts on Twitter classify him as a solid first-pairing defenceman at this stage in his career. The 27-year-old brings a lot to the table and is possibly a target of interest for Tampa Bay in the coming weeks.

Hanifin’s Strengths

The arguably most vital hockey skill for any player is their skating ability. Hanifin abuses his skating skills on his defensive zone retrievals to break out of the zone. Hand-tracked microstats at All Three Zones backs this claim. Hanifin ranks in the 91st percentile of defensive zone puck touches per 60 amongst defencemen this year. Furthermore, his smooth edges allow him to pass the puck to his forwards with a full head of steam while they exit the zone. Hanifin falls in the 86th percentile of zone exits with possession per hour. The Flames are exiting the zone with possession and gaining the neutral zone when Hanifin retrieves pucks. Hanifin’s skating abilities can help Tampa Bay exit the zone cleaner in the future.

From our microstats tracking project for the Lightning here at Last Word, we identified that the Lightning possesses superb passing abilities at even strength. Hanifin’s passing aligns with the rest of the Bolts roster. He ranks in the 53rd percentile of shot assists and center lane passes per hour. Moreover, Hanifin has found high-danger touches in the offensive zone this season. Hanifin is a trade target who can improve Tampa Bay’s transitional play heading into the postseason. However, what are the potential risks of acquiring Hanifin?

The Concerns For Hanifin

Once again, a 27-year-old defenceman entering the prime of his career is not always accessible via trade. With Mikhail Sergachev‘s injury, the Lightning now have an additional $8.5 million to spend at the trade deadline. Julien BriseBois is looking to maximize the money he has available. Yet, Hanifin is in the final year of his 6-year, $29.7 million contract. He is an unrestricted free agent set to hit the open market come July.

While his cap hit of $4.95 million is affordable for the remainder of the season, the long-term outlook is not pretty. Hanifin will want a significant pay raise and max-term on his next deal. Furthermore, Mikhail Sergachev will not be injured forever. The Lightning do not have a first-round pick for the next two seasons, and their prospect pool is shallow. Do they even have the assets to acquire a player as talented as Hanifin? If the Lightning were to get Hanifin, is he a pure rental? BriseBois has made himself clear about not acquiring rentals at the trade deadline. With that said, what would the framework for a Hanifin trade look like if the Lightning were to buy at the deadline?

What It Would (Likely) Take To Acquire Hanifin

The Lightning are limited to minimal assets in a potential Hanifin trade. However, the absence of Sergachev is hard to ignore. A trade that took place last trade deadline offers the framework of a mock proposal Tampa Bay can offer up for Hanifin. Jakob Chychrun joining the Ottawa Senators is an identical comparison. The Arizona Coyotes received a 2023 first-round pick, a 2024 second-round pick, and a 2026 second-round pick in exchange for Chychrun. For context, Chychrun had an additional year left on his deal at $4.6 million. The two defencemen are similar in play style, age, and production. Below is a hypothetical trade offer for Hanifin.

Tampa Bay acquires: Noah Hanifin (D)

Calgary acquires: 2026 first-round pick, 2025 second-round pick, Alex Barré-Boulet (F), Hadyn Fleury (D)

How Both Sides Benefit From the Trade

The Lightning are down a top-four defenceman in Sergachev for the rest of the season. The opportunity for a third Stanley Cup is fading with players like Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, and Victor Hedman in their 30s. BriseBois and the company should not hesitate to go all-in. What is another first-round pick matter if this team can capture a third cup? From Tampa Bay’s perspective, Hanifin may be the piece that pushes them over the edge. Hanifin can slot on the second pairing and is flexible with any defence partner. From Calgary’s perspective, they receive draft capital for a player they will lose for nothing in the off-season. The Flames also add two young players with potential as future roster players in Alberta. The Flames are on the cusp of the playoffs and are better off selling assets. The Lightning find a (temporary) replacement for Sergachev while the Flames move a question mark for draft picks.

Tampa Bay Lightning Trade Deadline: In Or Out On Hanifin

Hanifin is an all-around defenceman any NHL General Manager would take in a heartbeat. He is a fantastic skater, an exceptional passer, and plays a solid two-way game. While a 27-year-old defenceman entering his prime is eye-opening, is targeting Hanifin best for the future of the Lightning organization? If the Bolts were to acquire Hanifin at the trade deadline, they must sign him to an extension for the trade to be worth the price tag. An extension for Hanifin would cost north of $6 million per season.

Moreover, the Lightning will be in a log jam on the left side. Hedman and Sergachev are very good top-four defencemen. Plus, the Lightning have Nicklaus Perbix and Darren Raddysh under contract on the right side. Unless someone in the top four is out, acquiring Hanifin may not be a good idea. While Hanifin can help push the needle this season, the cost is too high and would decimate the organization for years. Ultimately, a middle-six forward target seems more reasonable.

Advanced percentiles via AllThreeZones (paid subscription required)

Raw stats via NaturalStatTrick & EvolvingHockey

Lightning tracked stats via Last Word (Kyle Pereira and Jack Pallotta)

Main Photo: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports


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