While I was doing some preliminary research for other articles yesterday, I happened to realize that it was the Three Year Anniversary of the infamous blockbuster trade between the Calgary Flames and Carolina Hurricanes at the 2018 NHL Draft.
As both teams were coming off of disappointing seasons that included missing the playoffs and a head coaching change, both franchises were feeling that a change was needed.
So, on Day 2 of the draft, the two sides came together and hashed out a blockbuster deal to save what was otherwise a very dull draft in terms of trades.
In case anyone needed a refresher, here is the trade:
- Elias Lindholm
- Noah Hanifin
to Calgary For:
- Dougie Hamilton
- Micheal Ferland
- Rights to Adam Fox
While it was not particularly shocking to see any of the above five pieces involved in a trade, it was pretty shocking to see it all happen at once. With rumors of Hamilton being unhappy in Calgary growing in the leadup to the draft, it looked like the Flames would lose their big acquisition from the 2015 draft just three years later. On the other hand, Lindholm and Hanifin were both pending RFA’s in Carolina, and were looking for sizeable deals despite providing underwhelming returns for the Canes to that point. The table was set for a big deal.
Here is a quick player by player breakdown of their three seasons since the trade:
Regular Season: 207 GP, 75 G, 104 A, 179 Pts
Playoffs: 15 GP, 3 G, 5 A, 8 Pts
It’s safe to say that Lindholm has become everything that Flames fans (and management) were hoping for when they acquired him. While the Flames were banking on potential, they did take a risk in acquiring him as one of the big two pieces coming back as he had previously topped out at 45 points in a season. With five NHL seasons already under his belt, there were questions regarding if Lindholm had already topped out his potential.
The Flames doubled down on their gamble with Lindholm by giving him a long term contract, signing him for six years at $4.85M AAV. That kind of commitment for a player who wasn’t totally proven was certainly a major roll of the dice, but it has paid off handsomely now as Lindholm has become an unquestioned top line forward on this team along with becoming a centre as well. He also topped 45 points in each of his three seasons as a Flame, with 78 points in 81 games in 2018-19 being his highest total so far. He’s become universally loved by fans in Calgary and figures to be a big piece of the future core of the team.
Regular Season: 197 GP, 14 G, 56 A, 70 Pts
Playoffs: 15 GP, 0 G, 5 A, 5 Pts
Much like Lindholm, the Flames were banking on potential in Hanifin when they brought him in. In talking to a Carolina writer at the time of the trade, the sense was that Hanifin had just never really lived up to his potential in Carolina and had the tendency to be overrated by those outside of the Canes sphere. His game had seen a lack of progression since coming into the league as an 18 year old, and it was frustrating enough for the Canes to move on from their 5th overall pick in 2015 just three years later.
I would say we saw the same inconsistencies with Hanifin over his first two years with Calgary, but really seemed to step it up this past year, taking on a bigger role on the blue line and really playing well defensively which we hadn’t seen in previous years. After reportedly being a trade chip in the 2019-20 season, Hanifin did enough this past year to save himself for now, and hopefully he can continue his strong play into next season after his year ended early with a shoulder injury.
Just like Lindholm, the Flames went long term on their new contract with Hanifin in the summer of 2018, with a six year deal carrying an AAV of $4.95M. While he might not have exceeded the value like Lindholm, he still has three years to continue growing like we saw this past season.
Regular Season: 184 GP, 42 G, 79 A, 121 Pts
Playoffs: 31 GP, 6 G, 8 A, 14 Pts
As good as Lindholm and Hanifin have been for the Flames, there is still no question in my mind that Hamilton was and is the best player to come out of this trade. He has provided elite offense from the blue line in Carolina and has helped the team make the playoffs in three straight seasons. He has consistently been a Top 10 defender in the league for each of the last three seasons. The 2019-20 season was by far his best, and he probably would have won the Norris if it wasn’t for a broken leg that kept out for a long stretch of the season. He ended that year with 40 points in 47 games which is crazy for a defenseman.
The caveat to weighing this trade now is that Hamilton is heading into unrestricted free agency and given that Carolina has allowed him to talk to other teams, it seems unlikely that they will be re-signing him. It will be a big loss for them, but for Hamilton it will undoubtedly be a massive pay day. Do the Flames get more of an edge now that they have three more years of control than any player they traded?
Regular Season Stats (with CAR): 71 GP, 17 G, 23 A, 40 Pts
Playoff Stats (with CAR): 7 GP, 0 G, 1 A, 1 Pt
Moving Ferland in this deal was definitely one of the sadder moments of the last few offseasons as he had become a fan favourite and local hero with the Flames, stemming from his playoff run in 2015. Unfortunately he happened to be a casualty of the numbers as he was moved out to make room in the forward core for Lindholm. With the Flames expecting Ferland to want a big raise in the summer of 2019 (which he got from Vancouver), it was wise to cash out when they could.
Ferland had the best season statistically of his career in his one year with the Canes with 40 points in 71 games, good for a 47 point pace. Ferland signed a three year $3.5M deal with Vancouver in the summer of 2019 but has battled concussion problems and as a result did not play at all this past season. We are all wishing the best for him, regardless of if he steps back on the ice or not, he will always be a hero here.
I’m not going to get too far into the Adam Fox part of this article as he also ended up choosing not to sign with Carolina and was subsequently traded to the New York Rangers. Many have discussed whether he really didn’t want to sign in Calgary or not, but the Flames seemed to act on the belief that he wasn’t going to sign, so using him in a trade like this to get NHL assets was wise. It is impossible to see Fox’s success and not think about what might have been in Calgary, but that will personally drive me crazy.
The Hurricanes received a 2019 2nd and 2020 2nd in the trade for Fox. Carolina then traded down in the 2019 2nd round and picked up a later 2nd and a 3rd. The Canes ended up drafting Jamieson Rees, Anttoni Honka, and Noel Gunler with their three picks out of this trade. All three do have potential, but it must be just as frustrating for Carolina to think about what might have been as well. At least our fanbases can wallow together in sadness.
When looking back at major trades, it’s also important to look at how the teams fared following the deal along with players individually. Since this deal went down, the Flames made the playoffs twice, never advancing past the first round. Calgary had their second best season in franchise history in 2018-19, but that ended with a crushing elimination at the hands of the Avalanche. Since then they have meddled with mediocrity, barely making it in 2019-20 and missing entirely in 2020-21.
On the other hand, Carolina has made the playoffs in all three seasons, including a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2018-19. They also made it to the 2nd round this year as well and finished first in what was a very stacked Central Division.
Since the deal, Calgary is 112-79-17 while Carolina is 120-66-20. So for team success, advantage Canes.
The ramifications of this deal will continue to play out over the coming seasons and really over the next decade as these players move around or get re-signed. The Flames have both players that they acquired still with them while the Canes are on the verge of having none left. If they are able to complete a Hamilton sign-and-trade deal which has been rumored, then they will be able to add some assets to avoid a total value loss, and add assets to the trade tree for this deal. It is also crazy to think that Calgary might have traded two players that could become perennial Norris contenders in a single deal. For the most part I would say this trade has been a win for both sides, but the next three years could swing things more Calgary’s way if they have success with Hanifin and Lindholm.
For now, the biggest winner might be the Rangers for digging hard and negotiating a trade for a player that wanted to play for only 1 of 31 NHL teams. salt intensifies
Who do you think won the trade at this point?
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