NHL trade rumors and live updates: Ilya Lyubushkin to Maple Leafs, predictions, deals and news ahead of March 8 deadline


Discussion of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s NHL trade deadline battle plan begins with Noah Hanifin. It’s at least possible that it ends with him, too.

The Lightning aren’t alone in their pursuit of the 27-year-old Calgary Flames defenseman. Every contender could use someone with his size, skating and two-way ability. No doubt, top-four guys don’t often come around. Hanifin is on top of The Athletic’s trade board for a reason — a fringe No. 1 defenseman with a well-rounded game and no glaring weakness.

Another of those reasons: Hanifin, barring a serious swerve between now and March 8, is on his way out of Calgary. The team offered the pending unrestricted free agent an eight-year contract extension in the fall that he did not, has not and almost certainly will not sign.

Chris Johnston reported on Feb. 20 that the Lightning are interested in Hanifin. As a win-now team with Mikhail Sergachev-sized holes on their left side and salary-cap sheet, they should be. Every mention of the Lightning’s pursuit of a high-profile addition, though, comes with two qualifiers: they’re short on prospects and draft picks — maybe too short to do anything particularly interesting in the way of improving a roster that’s currently in a wild-card spot. (Until Sergachev’s season-ending leg injury, there were three qualifiers, but the Lightning came into $8.5 million of long term injured reserve money that they’d rather not have.)

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