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Examining comparables for Elias Lindholm’s next contract

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Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Middleton
10 months ago
The sun is out, the weather is blistering hot, and the Calgary Flames are still waiting on a final decision from Elias Lindholm on whether he wants to stay with the organization or leave. Once that question is answered, the next step is to focus on a contract extension, and with the Hurricanes signing Sebastian Aho long-term, there are some interesting comparables for Lindholm’s next deal.
First, if we’re sitting in the general manager’s chair, let’s look at what kind of production we’re getting with Lindholm. Averaging 18:39 of time on ice in 80 games last season, he scored 22 goals and 42 assists with 64 points. The drop-off was steep, but the fact that he scored over 20 goals with one of the lowest shooting percentages in his career at 11.8 and the lowest of his career in Calgary (his average with the Flames is 15.4 percent).
The year before, Lindholm was simply incredible, and he had a season that certainly inflated his value around the league. With Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk, he scored 42 goals and 40 assists for a total of 82 points, four points higher than his previous career high that he established in his first season with Calgary in 2018-19 at 24 years old. In 2021-22, he also was voted second in the Selke Trophy race, losing only to Patrice Bergeron himself and coming out ahead of names like Aleksander Barkov, Ryan O’Reilly, Anthony Cirelli, Anze Kopitar, and Joel Eriksson Ek.
Award voting isn’t always a good way to quantify the kind of defence an individual played during the season (and Lindholm’s defensive metrics aren’t worthy of being second in Selke voting). The 2021-22 season certainly led to the drama that is happening now with these contract talks.
So, looking around the league, what kind of contract would be acceptable for Flames fans relative to other contracts for first-line centers around the league?
It’s important to remember that none of this is an exact science. But articles like these are always fun to write, and occasionally, it’s fun to remind ourselves of some of the crazy contracts in the NHL.
So, here are some players and their contracts that I think are pretty comparable to Lindholm’s situation:
  • Mika Zibanejad (30): 39 goals, 52 assists, 91 points in 2022-23.
Contract: one year into an eight-year, $8.5 million AAV deal.
  • Tomas Hertl (29): 22 goals, 41 assists, 63 points in 2022-23.
Contract: one year into an eight-year, $8.137 million AAV deal.
  • Bo Horvat (28): 38 goals, 32 assists, 70 points in 2022-23.
Contract: first year of an $8.5 million AAV deal for eight years.
  • Sebastian Aho (25): 36 goals, 31 assists, 67 points in 2022-23.
Contract: final year of an $8.46 million deal with a $9.75 million extension for eight years signed.
Some more players could have been placed in this group, but in order not to bore anyone, I decided to pick some names off the list and work from there. First, it’s important to remember that the Flames have reportedly made it clear that money is not an object, and they’re willing to make as high of an offer to Lindholm as it takes if he decides he wants to stay. And I, like many other people surrounding the team, think that’s not the way to go, and the comparables are just another reason I believe that.
Every player I listed above is at or above the kind of production Lindholm has had consistently with the Flames. They’re all making around $8.5 million save for Aho, who just signed an extension, is only 25 years old, and is one of the most skilled centers in the league despite the low point totals last year. Lindholm has scored 30+ goals once, while Aho has done it four times in his seven-year career, with one of the other three years having a total of 29 goals.
Lindholm will probably be a 65-80 point player for the rest of his career, and that’s a perfectly acceptable range for a number-one center depending on where he plays and what the system of the team he plays for looks like. For example, anyone expecting him to score 80+ points consistently in a Darryl Sutter system will never be satisfied. However, you rarely find a player in that range (or at least one in the point-per-game range consistently) being paid more than $8-$8.5 million annually.
As much as retaining Lindholm would be a great piece to have for the foreseeable future, there should be a limit to the money put next to his name on that piece of paper. He’s a good player with plenty of offensive upside in the right system, and he’s a solid defensive player as well. But when taking into consideration the kind of players his name is included with and the kind of money they’re making, it doesn’t seem like a financially sound investment to be paying him $9-9.5 million per year for the next eight years.

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