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Insider Trading: Flames' uncertain Hanifin situation coming to a head

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TSN Hockey Insiders Chris Johnston, Pierre LeBrun and Darren Dreger join host Rod Smith to discuss the latest trade winds, examine under-the-radar defence targets, have the latest on the 2026 Olympics and how the NHL Draft location complicates trade activity for the Rangers.


When do you expect we'll see some resolution to this season-long uncertainty surrounding the Calgary Flames and defenceman Noah Hanifin?

Johnston: Well, the winds have certainly shifted course more than once through this year, where it looks like maybe at some points the Flames are going to re-sign Hanifin, others that they were going to look to trade him ahead of March 8th as a pending UFA. And, I would expect in the coming days, we will get some sort of idea of where it's headed definitively. That's because Hanifin's agents ... are expected to have a conversation with Flames' management, where they present their final position – where there's something to be decided upon and that will ultimately propel this thing forward. And, [while] we don't know exactly which way that will go, I think it's safe to say that if Calgary is not able to reach some kind of contract extension with Hanifin, they will use the time between now and March 8th to find a suitor somewhere to trade him. And so, we'll keep our eyes on that.

LeBrun: Yeah. Which certainly, potentially could have an impact on the "D" market. But in the meantime, Chris Tanev is seen by most teams as the number-one guy on that rental "D" market because he is available. A number of teams have inquired. And also, there's a sense that the same way in which Elias Lindholm kind of controlled the centre market last week until he got dealt - and then you had that domino effect with Sean Monahan getting dealt a day-and-a-half later. Some teams that I've spoken to over the last few days feel Tanev is having the same impact on the "D" rental market, that there are other guys of interest, but they are waiting to see what happens with Tanev first in terms of when he goes. ... Now, as I mentioned last week, the price right now from Calgary – our understanding is – a second-round pick, plus another asset, which could be okay for some teams. But a team like the Toronto Maple Leafs, which continues to have interest in Chris Tanev, doesn't have a second-round pick for the next three years. So, it's been made fairly clear to [the Maple Leafs] from Calgary, I believe, that the price is a first-round pick if they want Chris Tanev. I'm not sure whether or not Brad Treliving of the Leafs is [willing] to pay that or not.

Let's shift to Montreal. David Savard has stated publicly that he does not want to be traded, but could the Habs defenceman be dealt before that March 8th deadline?

LeBrun: Well, the reason the answer to that is "yes" is really if another team forces the issue here. The reality is: I don't believe that the Montreal Canadiens want to trade David Savard. I think they value him for all kinds of reasons within the organization. But, they are a retooling team and they're on listening-mode on a lot of players. So, if someone really sends them an offer that makes them really think, then yeah, he could be dealt. But, at the moment, he's not a player that the Habs bring up on their own to other teams. They're not committed to trading him. Which brings us, by the way, to another veteran defenceman – Erik Johnson in Buffalo, who is a (pending) UFA. He was brought into the Sabres because he's a key leader for a young team. Now, obviously there's a chance he gets dealt, but the Sabres haven't committed to that just yet. They want to have a conversation with him. They want to have a conversation with his agent, Pat Brisson, before deciding where they go there.

We just found out recently NHL players will be taking part in the Olympics again in 2026 and again in 2030. When might Hockey Canada begin working on setting up a management team?

Dreger: Well, those discussions were already underway. That process started very recently with Scott Salmond of Hockey Canada heavily involved. Obviously, the sense is that they hope to appoint an executive director and overseer of all of the management groups for the various international events – a likely NHL general manager and someone to point the finger at [is] St. Louis Blues [general manager] Doug Armstrong. Now, beyond all of that, you know, that executive director would likely also occupy the office of general manager for the 2026 Olympic team. But a bit of a twist here. For any Canadian player hoping to be in the mix, the message is going to be very direct and very clear. The auditions start at the upcoming ... men's world championships in May. So, any Canadian player potentially on the fringe should accept that invitation.

Johnston: And with the NHL laying out its new international calendar here, there has been some concerns voiced by players such as Nikita Kucherov [and] Kirill Kaprizov about the ongoing Russian ban of athletes for international competition. They're not going to like what I have to [say] because at this point in time, I can tell you, with certainty, that it's far from certain that Russia will be cleared to play in the 2026 Olympics. Now, there's a fair bit of time before that will be confirmed one way or the other. But there is a meeting next week in Zurich where the IIHF will make a decision on 2025 tournaments, or at least start to have a discussion. I would expect a decision to come next month and it really doesn't sound as though the wind is blowing in the favour of Russia being allowed then. And so, by this time next year something's going to have to change. But as long as that war is ongoing in Ukraine, doesn't sound like there's much appetite for change at the IIHF level.

I understand the Rangers want to add before the deadline, but there are some complications that might get in the way?

Dreger: Yeah, including their first-round pick in 2024. And you're right, the New York Rangers would like to add a forward. I'm told that they did make an offer [for] Elias Lindholm, formerly of the Calgary Flames, now [with] the Vancouver Canucks. But that offer clearly wasn't accepted. James Dolan, the owner of the New York Rangers, wants to protect the 2024 first-round pick so that the Rangers can be part of the spotlight at the draft and The Sphere. Because Dolan is also the owner of The Sphere in [Las] Vegas. Doesn't mean that [general manager] Chris Drury can't use another first-round pick – maybe in 2025 or acquire one. But, the Rangers want to be part of the spectacle in Vegas.