Elias Lindholm has been the centre of attention in Calgary over the last few days. From being one of the Calgary Flames’ most underrated players in previous seasons, to now being the dam that is holding back all of the Flames potential business, Lindholm has become the talking point in the NHL.
Reports have noted that Lindholm has told the Flames he won’t re-sign with the team next season, but also that he has a massive contract offer on the table and is waiting to make a decision. No one knows truly what is going on with this situation, except for the fact that a decision needs to be made soon so the Flames can either move on or build around him.
A trade looks to be the preference for the fanbase, due to the sheer size of the return and the potential cap hit Lindholm could post on a new deal, but what would that look like? Let’s take a look.
Elias Lindholm’s player type
During the 2021–22 NHL season, Lindholm posted career-highs across the board and came second in Selke Trophy voting. It was a truly magnificent season for the centreman.
Last season, lightning did not strike twice for Lindholm. Without Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk, his offensive production dropped off a cliff. He never had consistent linemates and as a result was a bit lost all season. He still played in a strong two-way role on the team, but just not at the same level as previous seasons. Here are his results from 2022–23 as per Evolving-Hockey.com‘s regularized adjusted plus-minus and goals above replacement models.
When playing with Gaudreau and Tkachuk, most thought that he was the main defensive driver and made his linemates better, but he may not completely be at that level. That being said, he still logs some serious minutes both on the power play and penalty kill, hosts a wicked wrist shot, and can be a difference maker compared to other players on his team.
He has been the Flames’ best centreman the last few seasons, but may be better suited as a 1B centre on a different team.
The asset management point of view on Lindholm
Just like in our look at a Noah Hanifin trade, the cost to acquire Lindholm was high. As the key forward return in letting Dougie Hamilton go, Lindholm immediately became a top-six player to build around. Recall that the Flames traded Hamilton, Micheal Ferland, and the signing rights to Adam Fox—who wasn’t going to sign in Calgary—in exchange for Lindholm and Hanifin.
If the Flames are also moving out Hanifin, the amount of assets coming back to the team should be help stomach the loss of both Dougie Hamilton and Adam Fox to an extent. The team would need to acquire both young players and futures for Lindholm, which should start with at least three or four assets. He is still under a team friendly contract of $4.85M for one more season. With salary cap hell existing for what looks to be one more season, this is key for teams on the lookout for his services.
The price teams should be paying for Lindholm
Lindholm’s specific price is going to be extremely dependent on whenever Pierre-Luc Dubois gets traded as well. If the Flames look to move Lindholm after that, they will have a market set that they can easily demand the same if not more. The rumours look to be something to the effect of Gabe Villardi, Alex Iaffalo, and draft compensation for Dubois if he is to be traded to the Los Angeles Kings.
It wouldn’t be a bold statement to say that Lindholm is a better player than Dubois has been in his career, so the asking price should reflect that.
A first-rounder, a top prospect, a young roster player, and additional conditional draft compensation should be the minimum return. Elliotte Friedman noted that Lindholm should easily fetch at least two first-rounders, which could be upcoming picks or former picks depending on the team. At this time of year too, it should be an embarrassment of riches if Craig Conroy decides to pull the trigger without commanding the best return.
Teams to target and Lindholm trade proposals
There isn’t a team in the league that wouldn’t want to trade for Lindholm if he was available. It’s nearly impossible to find a top-six centre that can actually fill that role. Typically they are drafted and developed so a variety of teams will be chomping at the bit.
Of teams that stand out, near the top of the list would be the Boston Bruins. After their cap clearing move in trading Taylor Hall—combined with the fact they may be losing Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci—they look prime to fill a centre hole. Now the only issue is the team went all in this year and gave up a ton of assets to get deals done. Their next first-round pick is in 2025, and they have no second-rounders in the next three drafts. You’d have to start with the 2025 first, Fabial Lysell, and potentially a third- and fourth-round pick in this year’s draft to get that deal done.
Another team that has long been rumored for Lindholm are the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Johnny Gaudreau factor is huge, but they also don’t have that top line centre on their roster (yet). They are going to draft either Adam Fantilli or Leo Carlsson at the draft, but getting another centre to shoulder the heavy load would be near the top of the list for the team. Add in their “escalated rebuild” with the incoming hiring of Mike Babcock, and Lindholm fits the bill. The Flames would want Cole Sillinger, who they originally wanted to draft in 2021, but add in Denton Mateychuk as well as a second- and fourth-round pick in this year’s draft could make it work.
How about some bold predictions as well? Would Seattle trade Shane Wright and Ryker Evans for Lindholm to help bolster their roster immediately? Could Minnesota trade Marco Rossi and their first-round pick this year to get a deal done? Could those two extra first-round picks from St. Louis be too much to ask for?
The possibilities are endless.
The best outcome on trading Lindholm
The best outcome here for the Flames would be firstly to get a deal done and not pay Lindholm $9M a season, the second would be to acquire as many first-round picks and prospects as possible.
The team he goes to is less important here, it’s entirely about just who is willing to give up the most. Columbus seems prime to overpay to make the playoffs, and a Sillinger – Matthew Coronato pairing would be so tantalizing for years to come.
The clock is ticking.
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire