85Elias Lindholm
Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Lindholm and Hanifin: Two different contract negotiations

Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin have a lot in common: they both came over from Carolina in the same deal, they’re both young, and they’re both restricted free agents. What separates them is that final parallel, though. While both Lindholm and Hanifin need contracts, there’s a decent chance their new deals with the Flames will look significantly different.

At least for me, one player seems like a really good fit for a long-term deal (6-8 years) while the other seems more in line for a bridge contract of two or three years. I say this for a number of different reasons; age, experience, track record, and ceiling all factor in. Let’s take a closer look.

LONG-TERM: ELIAS LINDHOLM

Of the two, Lindholm seemed like the more ideal fit for a long-term deal upon being acquired from the Hurricanes a few weeks ago. Calgary management and Lindholm’s camp seem to be thinking the same way, too. General manager Brad Treliving gave an update on Lindholm’s contract proceedings late last week.

“We’re having good discussions on all fronts,” Treliving said Friday. “With Elias, in particular, we’re looking to do something long-term. He’s got an interest in doing something long-term. Now we’re just, sort of, working through that.”

From a Flames perspective, you can understand why this would be the plan of attack. At just 23, Lindholm already has five full NHL seasons under his belt and has been remarkably consistent, especially since his rookie campaign.

As such, Calgary should have a pretty good idea of Lindholm’s baseline over a longer period of time. Take a look at how steady his offensive totals and scoring rates (all strengths) have been over the last four seasons. Scoring rates courtesy Natural Stat Trick.

Season G A PTS G60 A60 P60
2014-15 17 22 39 0.77 0.99 1.76
2015-16 11 28 39 0.44 1.13 1.58
2016-17 11 34 45 0.50 1.56 2.06
2017-18 16 28 44 0.66 1.16 1.82

For Lindholm to have four seasons of consistent production like above is notable. We’re not talking about incredible production, but he’s now a proven 40-point player. Lindholm has done all this prior to his 24th birthday (that happens in December), which leads me to believe totals like this are the least we can expect over the next five or more years.

Knowing this, it’s hard to argue definitively against a long-term deal for Lindholm. The case gets made better when you think about the potential for more offence on a new team. In Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, Lindholm has the chance to play with the most dynamic linemates to date in his career. That could make his eventual AAV look pretty good on a long-term deal.

Lindholm’s consistency carries over when you dive into his underlying statistics, too. Much like his counting totals and scoring rates, Lindholm’s possession metrics have been steady and strong over his last four seasons in Carolina.

Season CF% OZS%
2014-15 53.4 56.6
2015-16 53.5 54.2
2016-17 52.2 50.2
2017-18 53.3 56.9

While sure things don’t exist, Lindholm is one of the safer bets I can remember for a long-term deal in a while. At worst, the Flames have a player good for a point every other game for the foreseeable future, while potential exists for a jump to a new offensive plateau.

Lindholm needs two more seasons to be eligible for unrestricted free agency, which is a big factor in this discussion. Knowing every UFA year bought typically raises a contract’s AAV incrementally, six years seems like the sweet spot. Calgary gets four UFA years, which is reasonable, and Lindholm gets security. Six years and $30 million feels like a decent ballpark.

BRIDGE: NOAH HANIFIN

Compared to Lindholm, Hanifin is far more of an unknown quantity, which is why a shorter term seems like the way to go. At 21, we’re talking about a younger player with far less of a consistent track record in his three NHL seasons. Hanifin’s ceiling is high and he’s improved each and every year, which is promising, but where he ends up plateauing still involves a little guesswork.

The biggest positive about Hanifin’s game is how much better he’s gotten each season. He’s gone from being a protected rookie to an impressive possession defenceman in his most recent campaign. Hanifin has yet to see top pairing matchups and has only one season of playing true top four minutes, but he’s also made significant steps year over year.

Season CF% OZS% TOI/G ES TOI
2015-16 49.8 54.9 17:54 15:27
2016-17 50.9 61.1 17:55 15:51
2017-18 56.2 62.8 18:52 16:59

Much like his usage and underlying metrics, Hanifin has gotten better offensively for three straight seasons, too. Shown below are Hanifin’s counting totals and scoring rates at all strengths.

Season G A PTS G60 A60 P60
2015-16 4 18 22 0.17 0.76 0.93
2016-17 4 25 29 0.17 1.03 1.20
2017-18 10 22 32 0.40 0.89 1.29

The biggest question, and thus largest unknown, with Hanifin is when he levels off. Right now, his progression chart is very much on the up and up, which is how it should be at his age. If it doesn’t level off for another five years, Calgary will be laughing because we’ll be talking about a top tier blueliner. If he hits his plateau next year, though, it’s a different story, and you just never know when that development curve flattens out.

That’s why a bridge deal of three years makes the most sense, at least for me. A three-year term keeps Hanifin a restricted free agent at its conclusion in 2021 (he’s UFA eligible in July 2022), which keeps him a controllable asset for the team. If he keeps getting better then, yes, he’ll be due for a big raise, but that’s a “problem” the team would like to have.

I would imagine Hanifin’s camp would be on board with this line of thinking, too. Because his ceiling is so high, why wouldn’t Hanifin want to bet on himself to possibly land a big money deal on his third deal? While being prudent for the team, bridge deals always have the chance to pay off for the player, too.

A $3.5 million cap hit on a three-year deal seems realistic and fair for both sides, give or take a few hundred thousand on either side. It gives the team flexibility in the immediacy and guards against an early plateau while also giving the player plenty of incentive looking ahead to his next deal.


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  • Off the wall

    Our projected cap hit stands at $66.6M.
    We have 18/23 players accounted for, which leaves $12.9M left for Lindholm, Hanifin, Jankowski, Hathaway and Kulak.

    A bridge at this point for Hanifin seems more likely now.

    I was hoping we would move Stone to provide a longer term for Hanifin. I think this kids game is only going to get much better than we anticipated.
    I can realistically see him as a top 1,2 dman in the next few years.

    Spend wisely Treliving…

    • Flaming moe

      I like your positivity OTW. Unfortunately 13 million left for that many players is not a good situation to be in. I’m hearing Lindholm wants big money and term. Hanifin wants to be paid but I don’t believe he has proven enough in his career to warrant a big payday. His numbers are average at best (besides his +- which is gawd awful). He can skate and is a great passer so I hope he elevates his game in Calgary. And if Lindholm gets paid big bucks then you know Byng will want even more than him.

      Am i the only one that is truly worried about our goaltending situation?? If smith struggles or gets injured which is very probable atbhis age, then we are done. We do not have another goalie this season who could carry us all the into the playoffs. I hope Brad has something up his sleeve but he is in a cap crunch so he probably doesn’t.

      • brodiegio4life

        Tkachuk was always going to get more than Lindholm regardless of what Lindholm gets. Depending on how he does this year he could be looking at 6mil+

        • Slowmo

          Relax we have parson he will pull it out this yr he just needed to get acclimate to the NHL style of hockey he will be ready and will come in if Smith falls again this yr so it will be Rittch and Gillies plus Parson between those three we will do well. Me hopes lol

      • Sea of Redd

        It’ll be tight, but 13M for those players should be enough. Hathaway isn’t going start in Calgary, so can take him out. But will need Rittich or Gilles as a backup. Lindholm 5M, Hanafin 3.5M, Jankowski 1.5M, Kulak 1M, Rittich 1M. Those have been the estimations I’ve read (rounded). Leaves 1M to play with. And I don’t want to start arguing on exact dollar amounts, because I know some players will get slightly more. But I’m sure Treliving will make it work.

        • RealMcHockeyReturns

          Excellent guesses, I bet you are within 10% plus or minus on all those deals except Rittich (likely closer to $850-$900K) and you forgot Gillies at same (but in the minors likely why you left him out)

        • JMK

          Holding onto 1 mill in cap space might be prudent. Cap might be even harder next year with Tkachuk’s next contract and if Bennett/Mangiapane or Foo have a big year it’ll make it a bit harder again. Keep the 1 mill for bonuses (Tkachuk and any other ELC player that might break onto team) to avoid having overages next year. At least two buyouts will be off the books next year freeing up close to another mill (that is if a bryout does not occur).

    • RealMcHockeyReturns

      Pat Steinberg – I wonder can Flames walk from Hathaway now if they decide he is not needed (I am not saying either way, but RW getting crowded)

  • Raffydog

    What a great way to endear yourselves to a new fan base. Nothing like holding the team hostage for more money to get the fans on your side. These two have only been a part of the team for like two weeks and I’m sick of them already.

  • That's Old Time Hockey

    Not gonna lie I love the offseason moves so far. We finally have some real forward depth. Well done Tre, high hopes for the season if Smith can stay healthy

    • Sven

      “NHL Off-Season Power Rankings: Who’s improved the most (so far)?”
      (SportsNet)

      1. Toronto Maple Leafs
      2. Tampa Bay Lightning
      3. Washington Capitals
      4. Vegas Golden Knights

      5. Calgary Flames

      “Give Brad Treliving kudos for being proactive. Bill Peters gives the room a new voice, and the additions of James Neal and Elias Lindholm fill the void of secondary scoring that buried Calgary in 2017-18. I’m fine swapping Dougie Hamilton for the younger Noah Hanifin, who should grow into a solid second-pair guy”.

      The key forwards will all be a year more mature

      and out with Stajan (2018 Corsica game score 17) and Lazar (Cgs 13.4)

      to be replaced by Lindholm (Cgs 33), Neal (Cgs 43.8) and Ryan (Cgs 40)

      eternal optimist sure – but still……….

  • Squishin

    How’s this for an early lineup?

    Gaudreau-Monahan-Lindholm
    Tkachuk-Backlund-Neal
    Bennett-Ryan-Frolik
    Mangiapane-Jankowski-Czarnik
    Extras: Foo, Brouwer

    Giordano-Brodie
    Hanafin-Hamonic
    Kulak-Andersson
    Extra: Stone

    Smith
    Rittich

    Cut or bury:
    Lazar
    Hathaway
    Prout
    Quine

    There’s decent depth on this team now, this was not an easy exercise. Also the circa $8mil sitting on the bench is not ideal.
    Looking forward to what rolls out on opening night!

    • C Watson

      What I like about your line-up is that 3 lines have both a left and a right-hand centre. This will allow each guy to take the face-offs on his strong side resulting in higher possession rates. Not a big deal but I might even trade places with Neal and Frolik. This would maintain your lefty-righty but I think would also add scoring punch to the third line giving three solid scary lines. I like it.

    • BendingCorners

      I like that lineup. Not sure Czarnik will outplay Foo but either way is fine by me. Hoping Brodie does bounce back, otherwise the defence could be a bit shaky.

    • Korcan

      I like it. My line-up is similar, only with Lindholm and Neal switching spots. My rationale for doing so is Lindholm has a better 200ft game and that will be necessary playing on Backlund’s line. Also, Backlund is weaker at faceoffs than Monahan, so that line would benefit more from a second, rhs centerman.

      Regardless, i love the improved depth and scoring this roster shows over last year’s.

  • Sterls

    I would gamble and give hanifin 5×6 too. He is the kind of player that you take that risk on. It likely is an overpayment this year and next but it could be a steal years 4 thru 6. I look at OEL and Carlsson contracts, guys Hanifin could be comparable to in 3 years, and I would rather get him locked up now then have to pay potentially 8+ for him in 3 years. If he doesn’t pan out he is still a tradable asset, some team will take a flyer on a young d-man who might just need a change of scenery.

    • BendingCorners

      Cap management suggests a bridge deal would be better. Allows for some other contracts to roll off two years from now before pushing the team to the cap limit.

  • withachance

    Playing with forward lines and thought this might be a decent look: Really think Bennett needs a sustained period with good linemates in the top 6 before the Flames gives up on him. That top line could be a monster if Neal meshes well. Mangi with Backlund and Fro to learn the ropes. Ryan and Janko rotates as the centre during the game, depending on the situation. Brouwer 13th forward.

    JG – Monny – Neal
    Bennett – Lindholm – Tkachuk
    Mangi – Backlund – Frolik
    Ryan/Janko – Ryan/Janko – Czarnik
    Brouwer

    • Kzak

      You and I seem to be the only ones on here with any sense. That lineup looks so much better than those that have Lindholm on the wing and Backlund/Janko as 2nd line centre.

      • withachance

        I think we as fans need to stop putting lables on line numbering. I honestly put Backlund as the “3rd line” because it just looks better to most people. What likely will happen is that both the lindholm and Backlund line will average about 15-17 minutes, while the first line will average about 18-20. It’s not about who’s number 2 or 3 in the centre depth, its about which lines perform the best at their jobs. Because the Backlund line would be the first line in terms of shutting down opposition and creating their own chances, and the Monny line would be the 4th line in that regards. The flexbility of the offseason signings means hopefully BP will utilise players at the right times that suits them best.

        I just think people automatically get turned off by certain players listed at certain spots because of bias.

      • withachance

        Because BP said he wanted to start Tkachuk on his offside. And also because Tkachuk is a good enough player to excel on his off wing. Tkachuk playing on the right allows the lines to be so much more balanced in terms of toughness and offensive ability.

        Regarding Mangi, he is the most experienced in the pro game of the forward prospects, and was the Flames best forward prospect for the past year. He had roughly a 1.0PPG in the AHL last year, while Foo and Dube are hyped up by fans. Foo and Dube have barely begun their professional careers and theres no reason for management to rush them to the big club. Not saying this is the opening night lineup, just saying through the course of the year this would be a great lineup to have by say like Christmas

        • Getpucksdeep

          Yea I heard Peters suggest Tkachuk on the right. I’m from the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” school. Making Brodie play on what should be his natural side for reasons we will never really understand, didn’t work. I have high hopes Brodie will respond to playing with Gio. They just signed a ton of right hand shots so they could have some RWs and yes I know neal is a right wing left shot. Mangiapane looked okay to me and yes he was 4th lining it. But Foo was in the action and Monahan was out with his injuries. Watching the Dube at the worlds was a revalation as I hadn’t really seen him play. He could be better than either of them! I wonder where Neal and Lindholm play. Sometimes the “3 stars” thing just doesn’t work on lines. I could Lindholm on the 1st and Neal on the 2nd to work with Tkachuk.

          • Hockeysense9393

            If people here don’t like Backlund…I have a feeling they will be dumping on Dube before long as well. Some people just don’t appreciate 200 foot players that carry heavy loads against good players, as apposed to just racking up points.

      • Getpucksdeep

        Sorry one last stat. Mangaipane 10 games played 7 shots on goal. Foo 4 games played 16 shots on goal. He gets lots of shots away, has sandpaper and will go stand in front of the net. Dube may be even better if more of a 200 foot guy he should still bring offense when he finally gets called up.

  • Cheeky

    Ideal would be around $4 mil per yr for Lindstrom on a 5 – 6 yr deal and around $3 – 3.5 mil per yr on a 3 yr deal with Hanafin. Can’t always pay for potential, sometimes you just need to pay for what they have done..

  • Jimmyhaggis

    Makes sense, give Lindholm long term contract, but 40 point guys shouldn’t expect huge money, 6 years 24 million not 30.
    Hanifin 3 years 3 million per year.
    Hathaway, goodbye.

  • Getpucksdeep

    Heard an interview with Hall of Fame Hurricane/Whalers!!! broadcaster Chet Kaiten today. The most interesting tidbit he passed on was the suggestion that not only is Lindholm a great 200 ft player and excellent face off man but he went further and said Lindholm will score 25 and could score 30! Higher priase than we’ve been hearing and this guy has watched every game Lindholms played for his entire career. He said local fans raised eyebrows when 2 x 5th overalls good traded as well. Lastly he noted Hanafin was pushed into the NHL too early and probably should have spent a year in the AHL but he likes Hanafins skating and offense is only now starting to show.

  • herringchoker

    I have no idea where this lineup is going to end up. I know some see Janko on the 4th but I cant see it. Too much upside. I can see him moving to the wing though. I suspect lines will look like this:
    Gaudreau Monahan Neal
    Bennett Lindholm Tkuchuk
    Janko Backlund Frolik
    Mangiapane Ryan Brouwer/Czarnik

    Trying to move around pieces is tough. I guess thats the whole point. Bennett, Janko, Ryan, Frolik etc are going to have to show up to play. I suspect what this roster looks like in October will be quite different in January.

    • herringchoker

      This roster as a blender is actually pretty tight. You could roll lines with RH/LH centres. If nothing else happens and just Bennett and Janko have a break out…..this team could be deadly. I dont see Tre doing anything with goaltending. I think the key this year is to get our backup in more games. Remind Gillies/Rittich this is potentially your net next season. We need you to take it.