Flames Mailbag: What would the haul for Hanifin, Tanev or Markstrom look like?

Sam Cosentino and Jason Bukala join Caroline Cameron to discuss how much the Calgary Flames could expect to receive if they trade Chris Tanev and Jacob Markstrom this season at the NHL trade deadline.

Full disclosure: this Flames Mailbag was supposed to run last week and was all ready to go. Then the Calgary Flames traded Elias Lindholm to the Vancouver Canucks before publishing and, well, much of what was written became instantly dated.

But with the 2024 trade deadline fast approaching, and with a pair of high-profile pending unrestricted free agents still with the team, plenty of eyes will remain on the Flames over the next few weeks.

The fates of defencemen Noah Hanifin and Chris Tanev remain undecided, and those two players are going to dominate the conversation in Calgary until that changes.

The resolution of Lindholm’s situation has laid out the blueprint for how the Flames will deal with Hanifin if he gets moved (more on that shortly).

While Calgary received five pieces for Lindholm, it was the core three that truly mattered: a first-round pick, a top prospect (Hunter Brzustewicz), and a roster player capable of stepping in right away (Andrei Kuzmenko). Those three elements are what the Flames will be looking for in return for Hanifin.

It’s a fair target, too. 27-year-old Hanifin is averaging 23:40 of ice time per game and excelling in all situations. And, with nine goals already, Hanifin is a pair away from setting a new single season career high with plenty of time left. With how his all-around game has taken another step this year, Hanifin will make any team instantly better if acquired.

The belief on Tanev, who is almost certainly moving, is the Flames are holding out for another first-round pick. And with reports of several teams being interested, it doesn’t feel completely out of the question. Tanev remains one of the NHL’s best shutdown defencemen and has a sterling reputation as an excellent teammate and someone who elevates those he plays with.

The most difficult to handicap is Markstrom, even after Elliotte Friedman’s Saturday Headlines report of recent, albeit unsuccessful, conversations between Calgary and New Jersey. If the Flames do move Markstrom, who’s been one of the league’s best goalies by many metrics, it should only be for a massive return.

With how perilous trading for number one goalies at the deadline has been in past attempts, it’s harder to feel confident in the Flames’ ability to extract maximum value in a Markstrom trade.

There are two ways to answer Josh’s question, because I still think the door remains open for Hanifin to sign. There’s a fair offer on the table believed to be in the range $60 million over eight years. But as detailed by Eric Francis earlier this week, Hanifin is still deliberating on a decision the team needs in the very near future.

If there’s no Hanifin extension, though, it’s hard to see a world where he or Tanev remain with the team after the March 8th deadline.

Conroy has been adamant since taking the job last May that he won’t let players walk away for nothing, and that stance hasn’t changed. Conroy has already backed that up with the Lindholm blockbuster, which is a strong indication he won’t hesitate to do it again over the next few weeks.

When the Flames traded Nikita Zadorov to the Canucks in late November, one of the important facets of the return was a lack of salary retention. Similarly, by bringing Kuzmenko and his cap hit back in the Lindholm deal with Vancouver, retaining salary was once again avoided. As such, Calgary still has all three of their allotted retention slots heading towards the deadline.

From what I understand, there won’t be any restrictions in Conroy’s ability to use any or all of those slots. Typically, getting a team to retain part of a player’s salary comes with the cost of an additional asset, which should give the Flames even more leverage in trade talks.

I think Conroy has already begun to answer this question. The Lindholm deal brought back picks, prospects, and a talented NHL roster player. The same is true for June’s trade that sent Tyler Toffoli to the Devils. In exchange, the Flames acquired 25-year-old Yegor Sharangovich along with a third-round pick.

With multiple other deals potentially still to come, you can expect return pieces to continue being a mixed bag. Calgary is happy to add more draft capital and/or additional solid prospects. But I also believe Conroy covets younger NHLer’s who are ready to step into the lineup immediately; think somewhere in that 22-to-25-year age range.

The answer to Eric’s question is yes. And the best example of what he’s referring to came around last year’s trade deadline and involved the Canucks. On January 30th, Vancouver flipped captain Bo Horvat to the New York Islanders in exchange for several assets, including a first rounder. About a month later, Vancouver used that pick in the deal that brought standout defenceman Filip Hronek back in return.

So, even if the Flames acquire mostly picks in their remaining trades over the next few weeks, that doesn’t mean they couldn’t then be used in other deals. The team could easily use newly acquired assets to target those younger NHLers before the deadline or during the summer.

This is a good question to wrap us up, especially because Calgary is now living in a post-Lindholm world down the middle. In the immediacy, the Flames have moved Sharangovich from right wing to centre to fill Lindholm’s void with decent results so far. For now, Calgary is content to roll with Sharangovich, Nazem Kadri, Mikael Backlund, and newly healthy Kevin Rooney at centre.

Bigger picture, though, the suggestion of Connor Zary is a likely possibility. Already the team’s most impactful rookie in ages, Zary has spent a decent amount of time down the middle in parts of three seasons in the American League. While his NHL time has been exclusively on the wing to date, at least trying a shift to centre down the road seems in the cards.

For now, though, you can understand the Flames wanting to keep Zary where he is. Centre carries with it additional defensive responsibilities, which can sometimes take away from a young, developing player’s ability to produce. With how much Calgary’s offence relies on Zary, a move to the middle is likely a longer-term project.

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