When the trade was made on the second day of the NHL Entry Draft, a lot of eyebrows were raised. Both at the names involved, and just how much the teams were swinging for the fences with the move.
For those wanting a quick refresher on the deal, the Flames sent D Dougie Hamilton, D Adam Fox, and F Micheal Ferland to the Carolina Hurricanes for D Noah Hanifin and F Elias Lindholm.
Let’s break down how each individual NHL player has been doing with their new team, and then seeing the effect on the team as a unit.
Elias Lindholm - CGY
Since adding Lindholm to the forward core, along with other offseason additions, the Flames have had a great deal of flexibility on how they’ve set up and deployed their lines. Lindholm has most commonly found himself on the top line right wing with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan and fit in quite well. He’s provided the dangerous playmaking and scoring abilities that somewhat lacked in the past.
However, when things weren’t running smoothly, Bill Peters has been able to throw the lines into a blender and has found a way to spark his team with new combinations. That was something that sorely lacked in Gulutzan’s tenure.
Lindholm has racked up four goals and two assists in his first five games as a Flame, including scoring a clutch tying goal on Saturday vs Colorado. He’s also been a driving force behind the revival of the Flames powerplay this season. He might make his new six year contract with $4.85 AAV look like a steal very soon.
Noah Hanifin - CGY
Noah Hanifin has already had three different defensive partners this season (Travis Hamonic, Mike Stone, Rasmus Andersson) as the Flames cycled around their bottom pairings due to injury, and trying to find chemistry. Through it all, Hanifin has been a stable defender on the back end and has shown a lot of promise in his first five games with the Flames.
I imagine that once Hanifin can get a consistent partner that he’ll really settle into his new digs. In limited action with Hamonic, he looked quite good, but Hamonic’s return is still a ways off.
Micheal Ferland - CAR
The mission for Micheal Ferland this season was to show that his offensive output simply wasn’t the result of playing with Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau. Thus far, mission accomplished for Ferland as he’s put up three goals and three assists in six games for Carolina. He’s been playing with the highly skilled Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen and complementing them nicely, adding some edge to a highly skilled line. Here is an excerpt about Ferland from Canes Country earlier in the week.
Dougie Hamilton - CAR
Obviously the biggest piece of last summer’s trade was Dougie Hamilton. After not receiving a ton of playing time during his first couple games in Carolina, his ice time has gone up in the last two games, topping 21 minutes on Sunday, and 23 minutes on Saturday. Here’s another brief except from Canes Country regarding Hamilton:
Most of that quote was stuff we already knew about Hamilton as Flames fans, but it’s clear that he’s going to be a very good player for Carolina. He’s put up three assists in his first six games.
The Flames have started the year with a 3-2 record, but the impacts of Lindholm and Hanifin in the lineup have been a big part of the Flames victories. Whether it was Lindholm scoring the tying goal on Wednesday, or Hanifin being a strong player in the defensive zone.
As a whole, the Flames have been able to create a deadly top line this year with a strong offensive threat, while stabilizing their back end and potentially finding a good long term partner for Travis Hamonic.
It is also worth noting that T.J. Brodie has been playing better this season (short of a couple mistakes vs Colorado) since being paired up with Mark Giordano again.
Lindholm has provided a spark for a Flames powerplay that was horrendous last year, and possesses the playmaking ability to complement his linemates really nicely, no matter who he’s with.
He’s also shown that he can do well in the defensive zone, something that Gaudreau and Monahan have struggled with in the past. In the faceoff circle, Lindholm has won a whopping 65.1% of his draws (43/66), which gives the Flames even more lineup flexibility while preventing Sean Monahan from taking draws on his off wing. Speaking of Monahan, he’s also at a solid 54.5% winning percentage, and has taken the same number of draws as Lindholm.
The Flames look to have been made better by this trade thus far, and now it’s time to look at Carolina.
The Hurricanes have blown their competition away (pun intended) out of the gate. They suffered only their first regulation loss of the season on Sunday night in Winnipeg, where they had 43 shots on net, but could only beat Laurent Brossoit once.
Carolina’s record currently sits at 4-1-1 and prior to play on Monday they were only behind Toronto in the NHL standings league-wide. The Canes struggled to score last year, but this year have lit the lamp 23 times in 6 games. Both of the Hurricane losses have come on nights where they had >40 shots, and they’ve averaged a whopping 42.3 shots per game this year which is tops in the NHL. Defensively they’ve averaged only 25 shots against, which is third lowest in the NHL.
New Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon spoke about creating a culture shift in Carolina, and players like Ferland and Hamilton have been a big part of that. The key now for Carolina is to turn this hot start into strong regular season play, and eventually a playoff berth in a strong Metro division.
Like the Flames, Carolina as seems to have become better off as a result of last summer’s blockbuster deal. Through the beginning of the season, it looks like this trade has the potential to be a win-win, but again we’re only 5-6 games into the season. Obviously what Adam Fox ends up doing will also be a big deciding factor in this trade, but right now things are looking good.
So far the teams are seeing strong early returns on their acquisitions, and that has to feel nice for two franchises under immense pressure to change for the better after disappointing seasons in 2017-18.