The Nashville Predators are a playoff team according to the current standings, but barely by clinging on to the second wildcard spot. Visually they look like a playoff team on the ice. They just need a little bump, and Calgary to go on a losing streak.
Why Calgary? They have Noah Hanifin, a pending unrestricted free agent who would fit perfectly into the Predators lineup. The 27-year-old defender is on pace to rival his best season ever and would fit under the Predators cap space, and have the pieces to make the trade work. He's currently the No.5 ranked trade target on Frank Servalli's Daily Faceoff list.
Hanifin is a big minutes guy for Calgary, but has been very weary of signing an extension with Calgary until the team's path is clear on paper. It still isn't. They traded Nikita Zadorov to the rival Vancouver Canucks for draft picks but haven't exactly been tanking either.
Hanafin Would be a Nice Fit for Nashville's Blue Line
The Flames have played just well enough to be close to the playoff picture. They haven't fallen off enough to sell everything and rebuild, but they haven't played themselves into buying and becoming an attractive destination. Not that Calgary in the winter is very high on many people's travel lists.
The issue is Hanifin's modified no-trade clause. He can provide the Flames with a list of eight teams that he can't be traded to. The Predators should be more attractive to Hanifin though. They are an American team (he's a good old boy from the USA), with a real vision for their future, and he gets a chance to play at the top of the lineup with the best defensive partner he's ever had in Roman Josi. Maybe, depends on how you feel about a lefty lefty top pairing.
Stat-wise, Hanifin is already a top-five scorer on this current Predators team and 2nd on the defense behind Josi. He's potted seven goals and 17 assists for 24 points so far this season.
Hanafin has also already blocked 69 shots and probably finish the year somewhere in the neighborhood of 80 hits. Easy deal for the Predators to pull the trigger on. With their $7.7 million and change under the cap, the money remaining on his $4.95 million dollar deal fits easily underneath it.
The Predators also have nine pending UFAs on the roster so if they want to take a run at re-signing a top-end defender in his prime, they'll have plenty of guys coming off the books allowing for Hanifin to get a well-earned raise.
How the Predators can Bring Hanafin to Nashville
There are two ways that this deal gets done. One is by offering the Flames a veteran leader also on an expiring contract who needs a change of scenery and a few of the Predators' 11 draft picks next season.
Tyson Barrie has "wanted out" for a few months now, and has only played sparingly. He also doesn't have any no movement clauses and it is beyond the time to play nice.
Now, there is always a chance that Calgary won't play ball for 2nd and 3rd round picks. After all, Hanifin was a fifth overall pick back in the 2015 draft. Hanifin is a player entering his prime, and getting him with the first shot at signing him to an extension. That's where the Tanner Jeannot trade comes into play. The Predators have an extra first-round pick coming from the Lightning in 2025. It is top-ten protected, but Tampa Bay isn't a team that should be in danger of entering basement dweller status any time soon.
Somebody get Barry Trotz a phone. Also, if you can't get Hanifin, his teammate Rasmus Anderson would also fit nicely. Raid the Calgary cupboard for all it's worth.