After the Calgary Flames traded defenseman Dougie Hamilton to Carolina for Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin, don’t be surprised if Calgary fans compare Hamilton and Hanifin for years to come. That could put a lot of pressure on the 21-year-old Hanifin as the restricted free agent will try to acclimate himself to the Flames this season, according to NBC Sports’ James O’Brien.
Regardless, it’s far too early to compare the two players. While Hanifin had a breakout season last year, he still has the potential to take his game up another level. While his numbers inched a bit last year from 29 points to 32, a deeper look into his numbers suggests that he’s become more comfortable on offense as he more than doubled his goal total from the year before with 10 goals last year.
However, much of the comparisons could come down to whatever salary that Hanifin walks away with after he signs. If he signs a deal for $3MM per year, then everyone will look at the swap for Hamilton, who makes $5.75MM, as a better deal. However, if Hanifin walks away with an even bigger deal that might compare to Hamilton’s deal, then expectations for the blueliner will only increase.
- Flames beat writer Ryan Pike suggests the team could have some cap trouble with its long-term plans, especially at the goaltending position. The team will have 13 players under contract in 2019-20 that make $5MM or more. With 36-year-old Mike Smith likely moving on after his contract runs out next season, the team may not have much cap room left to sign a respectable goalie. The team may hope that its goaltending pipeline of David Rittich, Jon Gillies and Tyler Parsons might help them out, but could be forced to look for another veteran in a year if none of them is ready to take over as a starter.
- Another big question asked by NHL.com’s Aaron Vickers is what type of performance will the Flames get from Smith. The veteran started the season well for Calgary, posting a 2.39 GAA and 20 victories in the first half of the season. Unfortunately, Smith went down with a groin injury and missed 13 games in January and February and looked a shell of himself after that, putting up a 2-6 record in his final eight appearances with a 3.44 GAA. Assuming he’s fully healthy, however, the question even then remains whether Smith can hold up for another full season.
- In another article, Vickers looks at the team’s top prospects and suggests that top prospect Juuso Valimaki has a good chance to win a roster spot out of training camp. Valimaki, the team’s 2017 first-round pick, had a solid season with the Tri-City Americans of the WHL, but really stepped up his game in the playoffs when he tallied four goals and 17 points in 12 games. He has a tough road ahead of them, but if Calgary feels that he is better than third-pairing players like Brett Kulak and Michael Stone, Valimaki could bump either of them.
- Pike also adds that with the buyout of Troy Brouwer, the Calgary Flames have now removed eight players from their 2017-18 opening roster, including Brouwer, Hamilton, Matt Bartkowski, Eddie Lack, Micheal Ferland, Freddie Hamilton, Matt Stajan and Kris Versteeg. While some of those moves came mid-season, the Flames needed some roster overhaul after their disastrous second half of the season.