Sebastian Aho’s new contract sets a ceiling on Elias Lindholm’s next deal

Photo credit:© Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
11 months ago
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On Wednesday, the Carolina Hurricanes took care of some important business. A year ahead of unrestricted free agency, they locked in talented Finnish forward Sebastian Aho to an eight year deal that carries a $9.75 million cap hit when it begins in 2024-25.
The Flames have a talented Swedish forward to lock down in the form of Elias Lindholm. Both are versatile, useful centres who can score, defend and do virtually everything a team would want. Because of superior numbers, Aho’s new deal arguably sets a ceiling on Lindholm’s.
Let me explain…

A quick comparison

A December 1994 birthday, Lindholm is a right shot centre who was a first-rounder in 2013. He’s 28 and turns 29 this season.
A July 1997 birthday, Aho is a left shot centre who was a second-rounder in 2015. He just turned 26 and is two and a half years younger than Lindholm.
Aho’s deal begins in his 27-year-old season and would be three years in by the time he hits 30. Lindholm’s next deal begins in his 30-year-old season. In theory, Aho’s deal pays for more of his prime years, while Lindholm’s would cover more of his 30s (and thus, more of his projected decline).
Just the age comparison works against Lindholm in terms of contract negotiations.

Statistical performance, historical and recent

Lindholm has played 743 regular season games since entering the league. He has scored 203 goals (0.273 per game) and has 513 points (0.690 per game).
Aho has played 520 regular season games since entering the league. He has scored 218 goals (0.419 per game) and has 468 points (0.900 per game)
Over his past three seasons, Lindholm has 83 goals (0.381 per game) and 193 points (0.900 per game) in 218 games. During the same period, Aho has 97 goals (0.462 per game) and 205 points (0.976 per game) in 210 games.

Awards and intangibles

In four of his past five seasons, Lindholm has received Selke Trophy consideration as one of the league’s top defensive forwards. He’s finished 10th (2018-19), 33rd (2019-20), second (2021-22) and 10th (2022-23) in balloting.
In four of his past five seasons, Aho has received Selke Trophy consideration as well. He’s finished 12th (2018-19), 25th (2020-21), 14th (2021-22) and 28th (2022-23). He also received Hart Trophy votes in 2018-19 and 2020-21.
Lindholm is a right shot centre, and his handedness probably boosts his value. Aho has a namesake playing with the New York Islanders who’s a Swedish defender; that doesn’t boost his value, but it’s kind of neat.

Long story short

Lindholm’s arguably a better defensive player than Aho, but when you look at Aho’s offensive numbers, any way you slice it, Lindholm’s just a little bit less impressive than his Finnish counterpart.
If Aho’s getting $9.75 million for eight years, starting with his 27-year-old season, Lindholm should be getting a fair chunk less than that given the differences between these two players.

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