#5 - Noah Hanifin
2019-20 Team: Calgary Flames (NHL)
Acquired via trade on June 23, 2018
2019 Ranking: #5
Noah Hanifin saw his point totals regress to a 26 point pace this season after back-to-back career high seasons in the low 30’s. The thing about Hanifin is that he still shows some flashes of potential, but doesn’t really push beyond a good second pairing guy. Going forward I would expect to see his role increase this season as he looked really strong after being moved away from Travis Hamonic and being paired with Rasmus Andersson.
Together the duo had a really solid playoff performance and as they gain more experience I expect them to take over the de facto top pairing role this year to give Mark Giordano a bit more rest. Both players seem to mesh well together stylistically and both could be poised for big years in 2020-21 if things go well.
On the other hand, there is the school of though that Hanifin is more or less what he is at this point, he has nearly 400 regular season games under his belt at this point and you have to question how much his habits have set in. He hasn’t brought much offensively compared to his billing and his defensive game has shown significant lapses. Hanifin has been in trade rumors all offseason and it is understandable with Giordano still playing solid hockey at his age and Juuso Valimaki looking like he could really push for top six minutes as early as this season.
In many ways, Hanifin is still looked upon rather apathetically by his home fanbase, very similar to how he was in Carolina. When I talked to them a couple years ago post-trade, the sentiment was that he consistently left you wanting more out of him because he occasionally showed flashes of elite play. They also talked about his seemingly routine gaffes in defensive play. Neither of those things have changed during his time with the Flames and he might be a player who’s supposed value may be higher than his actual trade value.
Hanifin is still signed for four more years at $4.95M which is a fairly moveable contract in today’s NHL, but the risk-reward factor could be fairly large no matter which direction you move. If Hanifin can take a step forward or be put in beneficial situations, he could easily outplay his deal and be on a team-friendly contract, but if he doesn’t really improve any more, it’s a contract that’s a bit pricey for what he brings.
If the Flames decide to move on from him, it probably wouldn’t be until after this upcoming season given the current tight cap situations around the league and where the Flames defensive core currently stands. It’s a tough decision to make, but again if his perceived value around the league is higher than his on-ice value to the team, you have to make the move.