Photo credit:© Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Would a swap between the Calgary Flames and Colorado Avalanche for Elias Lindholm be worth it?
1 month ago
The Calgary Flames are at an interesting crossroads. Their play as a team looks much more cohesive, but there is still the lingering fact that they sit outside of the playoff picture, and the trade rumours are starting to heat up as teams try to find remedies for holes in their lineup, whether that be due to the inherent weakness or a hole due to a major injury.
One player’s name within those rumours is Elias Lindholm, the current first-line centre playing between Jonathan Huberdeau and Yegor Sharangovich. Their line has been heating up as of late, with those two wingers getting much of the recognition and Lindholm making the smaller, more intricate plays to set them up and snagging some points along the way.
As of this writing, the Avalanche are missing one of their biggest pieces up front in Gabriel Landeskog. However, even though they are missing him (along with a few other forwards that would help sort out their depth more), they’re missing a true second-line centre after Nazem Kadri departed following their Stanley Cup victory.
Per Daily Faceoff, their second-line centre is Ross Colton, with Ryan Johansen backing him up on the third line. So, could they be looking to shore up their depth by adding in someone like Lindholm, and what would that look like?
This season, Lindholm hasn’t been as good as he likely wanted to be heading into a contract year. In 43 games played, he has scored a total of 28 points, with eight of them being goals, which puts him on pace for 15, the second-lowest total of his career in around a full season. He’s also on pace to have his second-lowest point total of the last five seasons, with the lowest being a caveat because it occurred during the 2020-21 season when teams only played 56 games (he registered 47 points that season, so by points per game, he would be on pace for the lowest of the last five seasons).
Lindholm is also lauded in NHL spheres as an above-average two-way centre that can compete for Selke Trophies year in and year out. Last season, he came in 10th in Selke voting, and the season prior to that, he came in second. However, not only has he not been very strong defensively this season, but last season as well, it felt as if his defensive abilities were a bit over-hyped. So, as the offence has declined since the departure of his two former linemates, Matthew Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau, the defence hasn’t gotten better. Instead, it has stayed close to the same, or maybe even gotten slightly worse.
Nonetheless, even with the odd grey area that is Lindholm’s actual defensive ability and production, we’ve seen what he can do offensively when surrounded with elite talent, which is why a trade to the Colorado Avalanche might just pay off for both teams involved.
So, what would a possible return look like?
Delving into the potential targets for the Flames, there are a couple that stand out, some realistic and some not. The first name in contention is obviously Bowen Byram. The 22-year-old 2019 fourth overall selection has played 39 games in 2023-24 and only registered 12 points. Last season, he played in a total of 42 games and scored 24 points, hitting 10 goals for the first time in his career.
If the Flames were to expect an NHL player in return for Lindholm, a 22-year-old who hasn’t quite found his stride in Colorado (although he hasn’t been bad by any means), it would be the perfect place to start. Byram will be a restricted-free agent at the end of next season. He’s currently being paid $3.85 million per year, which would free up an extra $1 million in cap space for the Flames to use as they see fit. A follow-up question that emerges is, would the Flames have to give Colorado extra compensation in order to take Byram off their hands? Given the report that the Avalanche weren’t ready to talk about giving Byram to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for Cutter Gauthier, that may be a real possibility.
There are some other names within the Avalanche’s prospect pool that might intrigue Craig Conroy and Flames management, the first of which is Calum Ritchie.
Ritchie is a right-handed center who currently plays in the Ontario Hockey League with the Oshawa Generals after being drafted 27th overall in the 2023 NHL Draft. He has appeared in 21 games so far this season and totaled 31 points, with the majority coming in the form of assists (22), as his passing skill and hockey sense are regarded as the best parts of his game.
Ritchie would be an interesting player to add to a solid group of prospects and an even more solid group of forward prospects, which might complicate the decision to trade for him. Where would he fit amongst the forwards that are already bidding for a spot in the system?
The same goes for Oskar Olausson, another forward prospect in the Avalanche prospect pool, albeit on a much different path than Ritchie is on currently. He is currently playing in the American Hockey League with the Colorado Eagles, and it’s safe to say that he has been rather underwhelming since being drafted 28th overall in 2021. Last season with the Eagles, he played in 63 games and only scored 20 points. In the six games he played in during the postseason, he scored three points, but instead of riding that momentum into 2023-24, he has remained stagnant. In 31 games, he has scored only 11 points and is on pace for 25 points in 70 games played.
Olausson’s play style, combined with his frame (6-foot-2, 181 pounds) makes for an interesting prospect, but his lack of scoring is a bit concerning. However, a change of scenery and some time in the Flames system could be an interesting way to try and change the trajectory of his career.
The final player that could be of intrigue is a defence prospect, which the Flames system is lacking more of than forwards.
Mikhail Gulyayev was the Avalanche’s 31st overall pick in the 2023 NHL Draft (four picks after Ritchie), and even though he’s small in stature relative to what lots of general managers are looking for in defencemen (Gulyayev stands at 5-foot-10), his ability to move the puck up the ice and create plays for himself and his teammates in the offensive zone would surely be a skillset worth trading for.
Here’s another clip, just for fun:
The Flames adding Gulyayev to the prospect pool would be a major boost, merely for the fact that they don’t have many defence prospects who could truly be consistent, major contributors in the NHL. They have defencemen who could be out of town by the trade deadline, and they’re moving in a more youthful direction, so bringing in an 18-year-old left-handed defenceman, who is currently playing major minutes in the KHL and has tallied 11 points in 48 games, would be a great way to keep that defence pipeline open. His contract in the KHL ends in 2025-26, so it would be a little while before he could come over to the United States. However, it may be a risk worth taking, given the kind of player he is.
Even though the Avalanche don’t have the deepest prospect pool across the NHL, they certainly have some interesting prospects to look at acquiring. Tack on the possibility of receiving the Avalanche’s 2024 or 2025 first-round picks (or even any picks, for that matter) in addition to a young player, and there are a lot of interesting possibilities for a Lindholm trade to the Avalanche.
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