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How the Canucks already benefitted from setting the trade deadline market with the Elias Lindholm deal

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Photo credit:© Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Tyson Cole
21 days ago
On the morning of February 2nd, the Montreal Canadiens agreed to send forward Sean Monahan to the Winnipeg Jets for a 2024 first-round pick and a conditional 2027 third-round pick. The third-round pick will only go to the Canadiens if the Jets win the Stanley Cup this season. 
For Canadiens General Manager Kent Hughes, this was stellar asset management. Ahead of the 2022-23 season, the Calgary Flames paid the Canadiens a conditional 2025 first-round pick to get the Canadiens to take on the last year of Monahan’s deal, carrying a $6.375-million dollar cap hit.
What did they give up in return? The elite asset known as “Future Considerations.”
Hughes turned a salary cap dump into two first-round picks and a conditional third-round pick. The Canadiens come out of this deal smelling like roses. 
Credit to Monahan, who rejuvenated his career with Montreal this season with 17 points in the final year of his contract before scoring 13 goals and 35 points in 49 games with the Habs on a one-year extension carrying a $1.95M cap hit. The decent production and low cap hit made him the top available centreman on the open market after the Vancouver Canucks traded for Elias Lindholm. 
With two of the top centreman trade candidates off the board, let’s compare the players and what it cost their new teams to acquire them.

Comparing The Players and Cost

One of the best ways to compare these two players is to look at their 2019-2020 stats. It may be shocking to look into stats from four seasons ago, but this was the season they played 500+ minutes of 5-on-5 ice time together on the Flames’ first line. 
Monahan: 70 games played, 11 goals, 25 points and a minus-10 rating.
Lindholm: 70 games played, 17 goals, 29 points and a minus-5 rating.
As you can see, Lindholm outproduced Monahan both offensively and defensively in a large sample size of ice time together.
Monahan has dealt with multiple lower-body injuries involving his hip and groin that led him to play just 189 games. Of these 189 games, he averaged 0.54 points per game. 
Lindholm has been much healthier, playing 267 games since that 2019-20 season. In those 267 games, he averaged 0.84 points per game. 
This season, however, paints a different picture. 
Comparing their stats for this season, they look like they’ve provided a very similar value to their respective teams. Only three points separate the two, but their team’s control metrics with each player on the ice at 5-on-5 mirror one another closely. So, let’s look at the acquisition costs for both players. 
So why, in a season where these players have strikingly similar statistics, the Canucks had to pay a significantly higher price than the Jets did? 
Well, it’s important to remember the narrative of both these players this season.
This is regarded as a ‘comeback’ season for Monahan, reaching his highest points per game average (0.71) since the 2018-2019 season.
On the other hand, this is viewed as a ‘down’ season for Lindholm, with his lowest point per game average (0.64) since joining the Flames.
With only a 0.07 point per game average difference between a comeback season and a down season, it speaks volumes about these players’ potential. An important metric that Lindholm brings to the table is his defensive game. Lindholm has led the Flames in penalty kill minutes every season since joining the team. Monahan has sprinkled in some penalty kill ice time this season, but this isn’t a mainstay of his game. 
The hockey world has seen the type of numbers Lindholm is capable of putting on the stat sheet when playing with elite talent—something the Canucks have in excess at the top end of the lineup. Rutherford said he spoke with Canucks head coach Rick Tocchet, and they anticipate he’ll centre a line with four-time NHL All-Star Elias Pettersson, a step up from Andrew Mangiapane and Yegor Sharangovich—Lindholm’s two most frequently used linemates this season—with no disrespect to those two players.
With all of this in mind, it’s clear the Canucks see the path to the old Lindholm shining once again and why Vancouver was comfortable paying the price tag they did. The price could have been worse had Patrick Allvin and Jim Rutherford waited for the market to set the deadline price tag instead of setting it themselves.

The Importance of Setting the Market

Canucks fans, do you believe that Allvin and Rutherford would have been able to acquire Lindholm for the price that they did after Monahan was traded for a first-round pick? 
Think about it; it’s getting to the point of the season where any trade now will influence the next one, especially of the same position. If the Monahan trade had happened before the Lindholm trade, Flames General Manager Craig Conroy would have been licking his chops and sprinting to the phone to increase his asking price.
I believe it’s fair to assume that Monahan would never have gone for a first-round pick if it wasn’t for the work Allvin and Rutherford did to get this trade done early. 
Lindholm was the consensus number one centreman available on the trade market. With him now off the market, the asking price for every other available centreman skyrockets — hence the Jets needing to pay a premium for a player that, let’s face it, hasn’t been a premium asset since the 2018-2019 season. 
Not only was it crucial to set the market in this instance, the Canucks blocked their competitors from acquiring what looks to be one of a handful of top-six calibre centremen available. 
I want to give my thoughts on this trade, as my last piece heavily contradicted the play of Elias Lindholm. If you haven’t already, check it out here.
First things first, I do like the trade for the Canucks. To add the versatility of Lindholm, being a trusted player to play centre, on the wing, on the powerplay, on the penalty kill or to defend the lead late in the game, is invaluable for a playoff run. In terms of what the Canucks gave up, it’s a large package but looks to be more fillers than actual value.
The steep price tag was almost exclusively based on the Canucks’ need to offload Andrei Kuzmenko, who had one year left on a contract carrying a $5.5-million dollar cap hit. There’s no doubt that Kuzmenko was a depreciated asset that needed a change of scenery. It was clear he was no longer a fit in Vancouver. It was clear that Craig Conroy and the Flames weren’t confident Lindholm would stay beyond the expiry of his current contract. Thus, it made sense for the Flames to milk as much value out of an expiring asset, even if it meant eating precious cap space next season because the optics of having another Gaudreau/Tkachuk situation play out would not be taken lightly in the market.
Yes, Andrei Kuzmenko was a fan favourite here in Vancouver, and his energetic personality will be missed. The fact is, he didn’t gel well in the Rick Tocchet system. If he struggled to crack the lineup midway through the regular season, come playoff time, would Tocchet have ever trusted him out there?
It’s more impressive to see what the Canucks KEPT while adding a player like Lindholm, rental or not, while adding a cap dump into the deal.
The club’s top two prospects, Jonathan Lekkerimäki and Tom Willander remain with the club. The Abbotsford Canucks pipeline of depth options, A-tier, and blue-chip prospects remains intact. Most importantly, Nils Hoglander remains a Canuck despite the Flames rumoured interest.
Hunter Brzustewicz is the shiniest toy of this trade. Currently third in OHL scoring, the 6’0 right-shot defenceman’s trade value was at an all-time high. While this move may be Rasmus Andersson 2.0, it was good business to move on Brzustewicz while his value was at an early peak. Joni Jurmo was unsigned and likely walking to free agency after this season. 
Suppose Lindholm does not re-sign in Vancouver, the Canucks will have sold high on three lottery tickets, Brzustewicz, a conditional fourth-round pick,  and a low first-round pick in the (optimistically) 22-32 range. The conditional fourth-round pick becomes a third-round pick if the Canucks make the Western Conference Final, which makes the trade an automatic win if that’s the case.
Moving on from the 2024 first-round pick was inevitable in an all-in season. 
Trading a young, developing Nils Hoglander for a potential rental amid one of his worst statistical seasons would have been a terrible idea. Keeping him, the team’s two top prospects, and shedding $5.5-million in cap space next season while returning a former 40-goalscorer was unexpected and makes me excited for what else Allvin and Rutherford can cook up ahead of the trade deadline.
It cannot be expressed how important being the eager beaver is in situations like these. Allvin and Rutherford went out and found their target and pushed until they got it done. Had they not been the first to pull the trigger, the opportunity cost would have gone way up, as seen in the Jets’ deal for Sean Monahan.

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