Quite often, the perception of trades is zero sum. Not everybody can get what they want, and one team is out to fleece the other. It’s pretty energizing for everyone involved when everybody gets what they want out of a swap.
At the 2018 NHL Draft, the Calgary Flames and the Carolina Hurricanes made one of those trades.
Coming out of the 2015 NHL Draft, the Flames were pretty happy with their haul. They made five picks and leveraged some expiring assets into picks they used to land Dougie Hamilton from the Boston Bruins. Without losing a roster player off a playoff team, they managed to make themselves a lot better, deeper and more talented.
Three years later, the Flames had a few potential challenges on their hands.
First, crash-and-bang forward Micheal Ferland was a year away from unrestricted free agency. He was a big part of their success in the 2015 and 2017 playoffs, but the club’s cap situation made it unlikely that they would be able to afford to retain him.
Hamilton, for all his offensive prowess, had challenges away from the puck. He formed a superb top pairing with Mark Giordano, but that made the pairings really top-heavy and made it challenging when the Flames played a team with more than one good forward line. Hamilton had been tried with other defenders, but the chemistry just wasn’t there and so he had to be with Giordano to be effective. Hamilton was three seasons away from free agency and after three seasons with the Flames it was evident that he was what he was going to become.
Finally, 2016 third round pick Adam Fox reportedly didn’t see a path to the NHL roster with the Flames’ defensive depth and it was beginning to seem likely that he might not sign with the club.
With new Hurricanes GM Don Waddell in the middle of a couple contact impasses of his own with a pair of pending restricted free agents, the teams hashed out a deal that seemed to solve everybody’s issues. The Flames sent Hamilton, Ferland and Fox to Carolina in exchange for Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm.
The Hurricanes got some short-term cost certainty in the form of Hamilton and Ferland, and they were able to flip Fox to the New York Rangers for picks. With Hanifin four years from UFA status and Lindholm two, the Flames signed them for six years apiece – a nice expansion of the four years of control they had on Hamilton and Ferland combined.
While Hanifin is offensively a step down from Hamilton, he’s a little more versatile and can play with just about any right side defender in the club’s system. Lindholm emerged as a top line forward for the Flames, playing wing and center and setting career highs offensively almost immediately. Both players have factored in on both sides of Calgary’s special teams units.
On a lot of levels, this was a lateral trade. Neither team got a whole heck of a lot better necessarily. But both teams managed to change the mix of their groups and get themselves a bit more wiggle room contractually and underneath the salary cap.
Everybody, strangely, managed to get what they needed out of this trade. Imagine that.