What latest Hanifin-Lightning rumor means for Bruins at trade deadline

What latest Hanifin-Lightning rumor means for Bruins at trade deadline originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Calgary Flames defenseman Noah Hanifin is the best player rumored to be available ahead of Friday’s NHL trade deadline, and the latest report on his status is not good news for the Boston Bruins.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported Saturday night during the Hockey Night in Canada broadcast that Hanifin prefers the Tampa Bay Lightning as a trade destination.

Friedman expanded on that report during Monday’s episode of his podcast, 32 Thoughts, with co-host Jeff Marek.

“As of Sunday, when we’re taping this, Hanifin is still focused on teams he wants to sign with, and I think the Flames are, too. No. 1 on that list, and no one has told me I’m wrong about this, is Tampa Bay,” Friedman said. “I believe the Lightning would like to do it. When that happens, it tells me there’s a deal to be made contract-wise, there just hasn’t been a deal to be made trade-wise.

“As I said on Saturday, if it was that easy to do, it would be done already. What we don’t know here is what happens if they can’t get this done? Does Hanifin open up his list of teams — he has a partial no-trade clause, too — or does Calgary get to the point where it simply says, ‘Look, we’re going to do what we think is best and we’re going to make that deal’?”

The Lightning have a major need on the blue line after star defenseman Mikhail Sergachev underwent left leg surgery in February. He is out indefinitely, and it’s unknown when or if he’ll return this season. The Lightning enter Monday in the second wild card playoff spot in the Eastern Conference — six points ahead of the New York Islanders.

Tampa Bay has a pretty good chance of reaching the postseason, but doing so is not guaranteed. Adding a player of Hanifin’s caliber would help them all over the ice at 5-on-5 and special teams. Put simply, he would make the Lightning a legit contender in the Eastern Conference. The Lightning rank No. 7 in goals scored and No. 1 on the power play. Bolstering their defense, which is what a Hanifin trade would address, is what they need most.

Hanifin going to the Lightning also would deal a blow to the Bruins’ chances of making a major upgrade before the trade deadline. The Bruins badly need a left-shot d-man who can play in all situations, log 20-plus minutes per game and play on special teams. Hanifin would check all those boxes. He’s also from Massachusetts and played at Boston College.

Hampus Lindholm is out of the lineup due to injury. Matt Grzelcyk has missed plenty of games this season, too, as has Derek Forbort. Forbort also is struggling on the penalty kill and in defending the front of the net. Mason Lohrei has played well offensively, but the rookie defenseman still has a lot of room for improvement defensively.

That’s four left-shot defensemen with question marks. Addressing this part of the roster has to be a priority for Bruins general manager Don Sweeney in the coming days.

Noah Hanifin

Noah Hanifin is the best player rumored to be available at the NHL trade deadline.

The cost to acquire Hanifin would be high, and while the Bruins do have some valuable assets — like their 2025 first-round pick and prospects such as Mason Lohrei, Fabian Lysell and Matthew Poitras — there are plenty of other teams that could outbid Boston. Another factor to keep in mind is the Bruins’ lack of salary cap space. They have just $57,500 of room under the cap as of Monday morning, per CapFriendly.

Friedman wrote in a story published Monday that the Bruins “contacted Calgary about Hanifin, but I’m not sure where that stands beyond the Lightning. They’re definitely testing the market on some roster players.”

If the Bruins aren’t able to get Hanifin, the focus should shift to a couple other d-men who could be moved. Notable defensemen the Bruins would be wise to target include Nick Seeler and Sean Walker of the Philadelphia Flyers, Jake Middleton of the Minnesota Wild, Joel Edmundson of the Washington Capitals, Alexandre Carrier of the Nashville Predators and Matt Dumba of the Arizona Coyotes.

The worst-case scenario for the Bruins is Hanifin going to the Lightning or first-place Florida Panthers. It would bolster a rival and make Boston’s path to the Stanley Cup Final even tougher. A first-round matchup versus the Toronto Maple Leafs, followed by a second-round showdown with the Panthers or Lightning (with one of them maybe getting Hanifin) would be brutal for the B’s.

Regardless of where Hanifin goes, the Bruins must upgrade their blue line with someone who can kill penalties and bring a little more toughness to the front of the net. Boston’s playoff run will be short lived if its penalty killing and net-front defensive woes aren’t fixed ASAP.