Late last night after a long negotiation the Calgary Flames announced a new contract for young defenseman Noah Hanifin. The restricted free agent will earn an average of $4.95MM for the next six seasons, carrying him through the 2023-24 season. Hanifin will be an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of the contract. The deal includes an eight-team no-trade clause in the final two seasons.
After finishing last season out of the playoffs for the third year in a row, Hanifin has had quite the offseason. As his entry-level contract expired, it looked like he would be negotiating with Carolina Hurricanes GM Ron Francis on a new deal to make him one of their key defensemen for some time. Unfortunately at the end of April, Francis’ was terminated as GM of the team and Don Waddell took over the front office. Hanifin would have to negotiate with a different group, but still looked like he was a key part of the future. That lasted less than two months, as during the NHL Entry Draft in Dallas, Hanifin and teammate Elias Lindholm were dealt to the Flames in a blockbuster deal that brought back Dougie Hamilton.
Hanifin is now with a new organization but is still clearly expected to be a key member of the Flames for quite some time. The fifth pick of the 2015 draft immediately leapfrogs T.J. Brodie and Travis Hamonic in salary on the blue line and is signed longer than anyone on the team other than Lindholm and Mikael Backlund. The 21-year old will get to experience some familiarity this season though, as former Carolina head coach Bill Peters has been brought in to turn things around in Calgary. The Flames missed the playoffs last season despite trading away their first-round pick, but have done even more to revamp their roster for 2018-19.
Along with Hanifin and Lindholm, the team has brought in James Neal, Derek Ryan and Austin Czarnik to give them some more punch up front and still have more than $2.5MM in cap space to make an additional move. Hanifin’s deal compares quite nicely to some of his contemporaries around the league, given that the Flames bought out two years of unrestricted free agency. The most straightforward comparable according to CapFriendly is Morgan Rielly’s six-year pact with the Toronto Maple Leafs, which will pay him $5MM for another four seasons. While Hanifin hasn’t yet had the sort of responsibility Rielly experiences in Toronto, their draft pedigree and offensive impact through three seasons are almost identical.
For Calgary, the contract doesn’t come without risk. Even with all the supposed defensive depth in Carolina the last few years, the team has still struggled to keep the puck out of their own net and never really pushed to be Stanley Cup contenders. While a big reason for that is the sub-par goaltending they’ve received, some of it also has to fall on the shoulders of the defensive unit. Hanifin especially hasn’t proven himself as a top pairing defender yet, and even with his obvious skills at both ends of the ice only posted positive possession statistics for the first time last season. That came in really sheltered minutes, as Brett Pesce and Jaccob Slavin took the brunt of the difficult matchups.
Still, there is obviously a lot to like in Hanifin. For one thing he already has 239 games under his belt before he turns 22, and can be expected to take another few steps forward in his development. Being able to learn on a daily basis from a seasoned professional like Mark Giordano can only help his career, and there is reason to believe that he can breakout offensively if given the opportunity. Calgary certainly believes in his progression, and have rewarded him as such.