The Calgary Flames should not have a blank check for Elias Lindholm

Photo credit:© Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Middleton
1 year ago
Craig Conroy and his management team, as of now, are still waiting on a decision from Elias Lindholm and whether or not he wants to stay with the Calgary Flames. The 28-year-old centre is looking for a big payday wherever he goes, and a report from Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli says that money is not an issue for the Flames.
For a player that has been a member of the Flames for half of his career, it’s easy to understand why money would not be an issue. However, with the kind of cap space Calgary has and where it’s allocated, the idea of paying Lindholm whatever he wants as long as he’s willing to come back should be an issue for everyone observing.
Lindholm is an effective first-line centre, don’t get me wrong. But is he worth the Flames shelling out an insane amount of money just to keep him? No. He’s certainly not worth the phrases “money not an issue” and “Flames are ready to pay.”
In the 2022-23 season, Lindholm played 80 games and scored 22 goals with 42 assists for a total of 64 points, which was a major drop-off from his 2021-22 campaign that saw him cross the 40-goal plateau (he scored 42 goals to be exact) and hit 40 assists for 82 points on one of the best lines in the entire NHL with Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk. And with those two gone, there was a pretty hard regression in the scoresheet.
In 2022-23, per Evolving-Wild, Lindholm finished with a 7.0 goals above replacement (GAR), which was eighth-best on the team, and a 4.6 expected goals above replacement (xGAR), which stood at 10th best for the Flames last season.
Lindholm is still under contract for the upcoming season at $4.85 million, and even though there have been an exorbitant amount of reports about the Flames’ front office not being in a rush, checking this box off, whether it’s through a trade or re-signing the Swedish forward is a huge step before the season begins.
At this point, it’s hard not to believe that the best option is trading Lindholm both for the betterment of the player and for the franchise.
For the player, it allows him to go to a place where he can accomplish what he wants to accomplish. He can play where he wants to play, and he can get paid the kind of money he believes he is owed. And for the franchise, it allows them not to be wrapped up in another long-term deal with a player that hasn’t produced enough to warrant an $8.5-$9.5 million contract. 36-year-old Lindholm is not going to be worth around $9 million, and plenty of people, including myself, would argue that Lindholm, at the current state of his career, isn’t worth that much. He’s a useful two-way forward that finished second in Selke Trophy voting in 2021-22 (when the public sphere defensive analytics would suggest he shouldn’t have), but outside of that season, which was statistically an outlier offensively, there hasn’t been much to differentiate him from lots of other first-line centers.
It’s worth repeating that Lindholm is still an excellent player that can bring tons of value to some teams around the NHL. He could be worth $9 million to a certain franchise, but the Flames shouldn’t put a blank check in front of Lindholm and be okay with whatever answer they’re given. Considering the state of the team, the money should be an issue, and they shouldn’t be afraid to hold steady.

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