Flames’ Hanifin appears to have Lightning as his top choice

Calgary Flames defenceman Noah Hanifin in the third period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023, in Denver. (AP)

Calgary Flames defenceman Noah Hanifin is believed to be eyeing a move to the Sunshine State.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported on Saturday Headlines that the pending unrestricted free agent appears to have the Tampa Bay Lightning circled as his preferred destination for a long-term extension.

Hanifin is considered to be one of the top players available prior to Friday’s trade deadline as the Flames attempt to get a solid return for the defenceman before he hits free agency.

“When it comes to Hanifin, he’s focusing on places and they’re focusing on places where he wants to sign an extension. The belief is Tampa Bay is his No. 1 choice,” Friedman said.

“I think if this was so easy to do, it would be done already. Everybody continues to work at it. We’ll see how this goes over the next week … But if they can’t make it work with the Lightning, we’ll see how that develops and how Calgary and Hanifin proceed.”

While the Flames remain in the post-season race, albeit outside the current playoff picture, they have not been shy about trading away pending free agents.

Fellow blue-liner Chris Tanev was dealt to the Dallas Stars earlier this week. Earlier this season, the Flames traded Elias Lindholm and Nikita Zadorov to the Vancouver Canucks in separate deals.

Hanifin, 27, has 11 goals and 23 assists for 34 points in 59 games with the Flames this season.

The Flames acquired Hanifin in a blockbuster trade with the Carolina Hurricanes in the summer of 2018.

The Hurricanes picked Hanifin fifth overall in the 2015 NHL Draft.

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