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How does Noah Hanifin’s contract compare to other defencemen?

In constructing their 2018-19 roster, the Flames have tossed a fair bit of money around. The latest example of this is Noah Hanifin’s contract extension, as the Flames signed him to a six-year deal, worth an annual average value of $4.95 million.

In terms of new cap hits, he’s behind James Neal, who was signed to a $5.75 AAV, but ahead of fellow former Hurricane Elias Lindholm, who ultimately accepted a five-year, $4.85 million AAV pact.

Throw in Derek Ryan’s $3.125 million cap hit, and it becomes all the more evident why the Flames had to buy out Troy Brouwer: now with just under $2.59 million in cap space, the Flames wouldn’t have been able to add all of these players – including the 21-year-old defenceman who already has 239 games of experience to a long-term deal – if they hadn’t freed up $3 million in cap space by buying him out.

The result is an upgraded forward group and a defensive group that may have taken a hit (Dougie Hamilton, part of the package Hanifin and Lindholm were traded for, was very good, but Hanifin is four years younger and could potentially still reach an incredible ceiling). Hanifin is also now projected to be a long-term part of said defence: one that, in two seasons’ time, only has him and Mark Giordano under contract.

There are 15 other defencemen in today’s NHL who are playing on their second contracts with cap hits ranging from $4.25-$5.75 million. All were signed to deals ranging from five to eight years in length, with most falling at six or seven. There are no bridge deals in the group; these are Hanifin’s contractual peers.

The cap hits listed below, in descending order, are their current ones; the following stats are how they performed throughout their entry-level deals, ranging from one to three years, depending on the player. Corsi and zone start stats from Corsica.

Player Cap hit Games played Points P/GP ATOI 5v5 CF% 5v5 ZSR
Dougie Hamilton $5.75 million 178 83 .47 19:32 55.45 50.00
Oliver Ekman-Larsson $5.5 million 178 67 .38 21:00 51.71 48.58
Colton Parayko $5.5 million 160 68 .42 20:18 52.97 50.15
Tyler Myers $5.5 million 217 108 .50 22:57 50.25 51.86
Seth Jones $5.4 million 240 83 .35 20:32 52.15 52.45
Rasmus Ristolainen $5.4 million 194 65 .34 22:19 41.44 42.01
Jaccob Slavin $5.3 million 227 84 .37 22:27 41.60 41.28
Brady Skjei $5.25 million 169 64 .38 19:12 48.26 56.65
Hampus Lindholm $5.25 million 236 92 .39 21:04 53.13 51.00
Morgan Rielly $5 million 236 92 .39 20:30 47.75 46.43
Noah Hanifin $4.95 million 239 83 .35 18:14 52.38 59.93
Michael Matheson $4.87 million 165 44 .27 21:08 49.33 43.95
Justin Faulk $4.833 million 180 69 .38 23:20 50.07 50.23
Shayne Gostisbehere $4.5 million 142 85 .60 19:43 51.44 64.61
Nikita Zaitsev $4.5 million 82 36 .44 22:01 52.50 67.61
John Klingberg $4.25 million 65 40 .62 21:50 53.59 47.97

Hanifin is on the lower end of the cap hits, which is a good first sign. Among the 15 players (16 including himself), he’s tied for 13th in points per game, and had the lowest average ice time among the group. Though early in his career he’s been both a modest scorer and eaten a modest number of minutes, among his contractual peers, he’s on the lower end of the spectrum.

Of course, having fewer minutes with which to score is a factor (tying Jones in points per game while averaging two fewer minutes per game isn’t a bad thing at all); then again, these are all defencemen, and being able to play big minutes is crucial as well, particularly if you’re going to be a top four guy.

In terms of corsi, Hanifin rates well: he’s sixth in the group. That does, however, come with having the third highest offensive zone starts, and by quite a fair margin at that; Zaitsev aside, everyone with a higher corsi rating had far more difficult circumstances in which to play. Hanifin has been sheltered through his career, but he’s done well with the high ground.

So it certainly doesn’t look like Treliving overpaid; rather, he may have captured Hanifin at an exactly fair market value. Of course, with six seasons on the deal Hanifin will have a ton of time to prove himself worth it – or even begin to look underpaid – but initial impressions, surrounded by his peers, indicate Hanifin’s cap hit is right about where it should be.

Eating up a couple of unrestricted free agency years for a player who won’t turn 22 until the new year, though? That’s where this contract could prove fruitful, and the desire to lock Hanifin up long term gets all the more understandable: this deal probably isn’t much of a risk, but the rewards could be massive.