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What might it take for the Canucks to re-sign Elias Lindholm? Should they?

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Photo credit:Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports
Tyson Cole
1 month ago
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The series continues as we move to the centre position. Today’s player was thought to be the top-six forward the Vancouver Canucks needed for their lengthy playoff run, Elias Lindholm.
When the Canucks brought in Lindholm, the hope was for him to play as a valued member of the top six alongside Elias Pettersson. Much to the chagrin of Canucks fans and management, things haven’t entirely gone as planned. 
For much of the off-season, it was believed that Lindholm could be one of the few Calgary Flames‘ upcoming free agents to sign an extension with the club. 
“I was always willing to stay,” Lindholm told Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston. 
While it was never confirmed, Flames insiders believed a contract extension in the $8.5M—$9M range was on the table for Lindholm this off-season.
And boy, he’s probably kicking himself for not jumping on that opportunity, given the season he’s having to date. 
There really hasn’t been any speculation around Vancouver as to what a contract extension for Lindholm would look like. So why don’t we try and ballpark a price based on how he’s been a fit in Vancouver?

How is Elias Lindholm a fit for the Canucks?

In his short 24-game stint in Vancouver, Lindholm has five goals, 10 points, a -3 rating, and an average of 17:43 minutes of ice time per game. Certainly not the level of offensive production that the Canucks were hoping for when they made the trade, but he has shown flashes.
Lindholm has two multi-goal games as a member of the Canucks. In his first game, he showed off his net-front ability on the powerplay by tipping in two Quinn Hughes shots. 
In his second multi-goal game, Lindholm showed his lethal shot that was such a big part of his 40-goal campaign in the 2021-2022 season.
However, he’s struggled offensively for the majority of his time here, including a stretch where he had just one assist in 12 games. One area in which he hasn’t floundered is the defensive side of his game.
Combining Lindholm’s elite-level defence with his forechecking ability can help lead to a successful offence — just like on this play.
Now, there may be some luck involved in swatting the puck to hold the zone, but the high level of awareness required even to attempt this is impressive.
Even here, he pressures the league’s (second) best defenceman, Cale Makar, and blocks his pass. This block creates a scoring chance for Conor Garland. 
Lindholm has become a first-over-the-board penalty killer for Rick Tocchet. Since February 6th (Lindholm’s first game), he ranks third on the team in penalty kill ice time per game. He often spends time with Teddy Blueger or J.T. Miller on the top penalty kill unit.
Not just that, but his faceoff ability is probably the biggest asset he’s brought to this Canucks team. He’s the only right-handed centreman on the team and has the second-best faceoff percentage (59.7%), trailing only J.T. Miller (60.2%) in 182 fewer faceoffs taken. 
Further into Tocchet’s defensive trust in Lindholm, he starts 56.5% of his shifts in the defensive zone, which trails only Teddy Blueger in defensive zone percentage for centreman. If we want to adjust for games played, Lindholm would trail Blueger by just over one defensive zone start per 60. Proving that when the Canucks need a faceoff win in the defensive zone, Lindholm is a top-trusted weapon – especially on the right side. 
So, to answer the question, I would say he has and hasn’t been a fit.
As a player in a Rick Tocchet defensive system? Yes, he’s fit in well. 
As a top-six scoring option to pair with Elias Pettersson? Not so much.
Lindholm and Pettersson have played 97:25 of his 301:13 minutes of 5-on-5 ice time together, accounting for five goals for and six goals against. After this failed experiment, Tocchet and his coaching staff decided they preferred Lindholm at centre. 
While it’s nice to have elite centre depth, it’s come at the cost of Lindholm’s offensive game. He is now more used in a defensive role on the third line. 
I don’t think Patrik Allvin and Jim Rutherford would have made the same trade today had they known what role Lindholm would be playing as they ramp up toward playoff time.
One thing this Canucks management group has shown is their ability to realize a potential mistake and not double down on it. Something Canucks fans are all too familiar with. *cough cough Jim Benning* 
Now that we’ve established what Lindholm has brought to the Canucks, let’s try to narrow what his price may look like. 

How Much Will Lindholm Cost?

Lindholm signed a six-year, $29.1M contract extension in 2018 that paid him $4.85M annually. While he’s due for a raise, is he still worth the $8.5M+ he reportedly asked for this past off-season?
Well, with the help of the Province’s Patrick Johnson, we have quotes from the Canucks General Manager on the type of player Lindholm is and why they traded for him. 
“I felt that giving us a right-shot centre, a player that has competed at the highest level for years and being a really solid 200-foot player.”
Rick Tocchet also told reporters during All-Star weekend what his initial thoughts were on what Lindholm brings to his club.
“To win, you have to have those guys that can play 200-feet and can score, but also defend.”
A clear indicator of a player’s value is to look at their individual numbers and compare them to what other forwards of their stature are making. 
I’ve analyzed and compared Lindholm’s stats from this season to 11 others that fit his similar faceoff ability, goal-scoring totals, and defensive/penalty kill deployment to help gauge what his upcoming contract should look like.
*Players are ranked in order of average annual salary (AAV). 
Now, Lindholm’s first glaring negative is his point totals. He ranks in the bottom three in point totals and dead last in goal totals. This lack of point production is something new for Lindholm, as since he was traded to the Calgary Flames, he’s only had one season with less than 20 goals – and that was the shortened 56-game season where he had 19. 
It is unfortunate for his bank account to have his down season in a contract year. 
However, his penalty-killing and faceoff resume is what sets him apart. He ranks in the top three of the group for average shorthanded time and trails only Vincent Trocheck for faceoff winning percentage. Across the entire league, he sits 15th in total wins and eighth in win percentage of centres with 600+ faceoff wins.
Finding a direct comparable is challenging, given his down season and the rising cap. To help with this dilemma, I looked into the players’ point totals from the previous three seasons, which was more telling.
Lindholm ranks fifth in this group, with just four points separating him, Trocheck and cover your eyes Canucks fans, Bo Horvat. 
At the beginning of the season, his closest comparable to me would have been Bo Horvat. He’s an elite defensive centre in the faceoff dot who knows how to score goals. 
But after this season, I’d say he’s closer to the Anthony Cirelli and Vincent Trocheck range.
Cirelli has always been known as a defence-first centre — a true shutdown player, especially come playoff time. Except for this year, he’s found his offensive game, as he’s set career highs in goals and points. Cirelli matches Lindholm’s penalty kill time this year but is substantially worse in the faceoff dot.
Now it’s not something Canucks fans will probably want to hear, but… 
With similar defensive games and Cirelli’s career year matching Lindholm’s down year, it seems unlikely that Lindholm would take anything south of Cirelli’s AAV.
For Trocheck, he narrowly edges Lindholm in the faceoff dot. Trocheck has a 2% higher winning percentage, taking nearly 200 more draws. While he mops the floor with him offensively this season, they’re quite similar over their previous three seasons. 
Looking at all these stats, it wouldn’t make sense for Lindholm to make more than Trocheck, right?
Well, it’s important to consider the timing he signed this contract
Trocheck signed this contract in the summer of 2022. The salary cap went up for the first time in four years, and it only went up by $1M. The NHL was barely out of the dead cap era. So, on the surface, it doesn’t look good, but Lindholm will likely command more in today’s market.
Unfortunately for Lindholm, I believe with his play this season, he’s played himself out of the $8.5M-$9M range he was offered this past off-season. But I don’t think that number’s too far off with the rising cap and the demand for a consistent 20-goal-scoring centreman who can kill penalties and win clutch faceoffs. 
Yeah, those guys rarely become available on the free-agent market.
I’m not saying the Canucks should do this, but don’t be shocked to see Lindholm still land in the low-to-mid sevens. Or, with a good playoff performance, he could work his way back to the high sevens.
While he’s been a great defensive acquisition for the Canucks, that price tag is too expensive for a third-line centre. Lindholm has shown he can be a top-line centre in this league; it just has yet to work out that way here in Vancouver. 
What do you think Canucks fans? Would you want Vancouver to make a run to re-sign Elias Lindholm?
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