Photo credit:© Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Why Canucks fans should be ecstatic about the addition of Elias Lindholm
19 days ago
For the second year in a row, the Vancouver Canucks have disrupted the proceedings at the All-Star Game with a blockbuster trade.
Last year, it was Bo Horvat, the Canucks’ captain and All-Star representative, being traded to the New York Islanders just ahead of the festivities.
This time around, it’s the Canucks who are adding the All-Star, in the form of Elias Lindholm from the Calgary Flames.
The Canucks acquired Lindholm late on Wednesday night, sending back Andrei Kuzmenko, Hunter Brzustewicz, Joni Jurmo, their 2024 first round pick, and a conditional fourth rounder in return.
You’ve already heard, and will continue to hear plenty about the great market value the Canucks got in this deal. In short, GM Patrik Allvin and Co. successfully traded for the top forward on the block, did so without giving up any of their top-five-or-so prospects or 25-and-under NHLers, and closed it more than a month ahead of the Trade Deadline.
But that’s not what this article is about.
This article is zeroing in on the All-Star addition himself, Lindholm, and it’s an unabashed hype piece about why the Canucks faithful should be very, very excited about his arrival in Vancouver.
The first thing to talk about here is Lindholm’s overall qualities as a player. It is true that, prior to this trade, Lindholm was mired in one of the worst seasons in his 11-year NHL career. But one bad season doesn’t take away from Lindholm’s status as a top-line player and one of definitive “1C” quality.
Over the five seasons prior to this one, Lindholm notched 139 goals and 325 points across 369 games. That has him ranked 15th overall for centers across that same stretch. Oddly enough, he’s nestled right between JT Miller at 14th overall and Elias Pettersson at 16th overall.
Now, all three are Canucks.
And that’s just measuring by raw offensive output, whereas Lindholm offers so much more than that. He’s just one full season removed from finishing second to Patrice Bergeron in the 2021/22 Selke Trophy race.
In other words, Lindholm has been one of the NHL’s most productive centers, and one of its most defensively-responsible, for several years running now.
Has that version of Lindholm diminished a little this year? Sure. But he’s been playing in an absolute mess of a situation in Calgary, and he’s still managed 32 points in 49 games.
Let’s just wait and see what he can do in a much, much better situation in Vancouver.
Because the answer, to be perfectly honest, is probably a lot of different things.
As much as Lindholm brings two-way talent to the table, what he really offers the Canucks is an abundance of versatility in their top-six set of forwards.
This article is about Lindholm, not the trade itself, and we’re not looking to dump on Kuzmenko too much as he exits the franchise. But suffice it to say that Kuzmenko was not the world’s most versatile player, and that he often had to carefully fit onto a scoring line.
Not so with Lindholm. Much the opposite, in fact.
Lindholm can play at center. He can play on the wing, too. He can play in a purely offensive role, he can helm a shutdown unit, and he can definitely put together some blend of both.
We listed Lindholm as the “gold standard” in our rundown of “top-six centre trade targets as the Canucks look to keep the Lotto Line together.” (Where, for the record, this author estimated Lindholm’s bare minimum cost of acquisition as a first round pick, a B+ prospect, and Andrei Kuzmenko…nailed it!)
In that article, we highlighted Lindholm’s obvious ability to carry a line on his own. With the Lotto Line reunited, Lindholm fits well on a two-way second line with Pius Suter and Ilya Mikheyev. Those are players that Lindholm should be able to elevate. Maybe the line gets a more offensive bent by swapping out one of the wingers for Nils Höglander. The fit is as apparent now as it was when we were just speculating.
But the Lotto Line is not currently together, and Lindholm arguably fits in even better to a Lotto-less lineup.
Put him on the wing with Miller and Brock Boeser, and you’ve got a deadly new trio. Both Lindholm and Boeser are sharp-shooters who know how to get to those high-danger areas and make themselves available. Putting them on either side of Miller, one of the league’s best playmakers, has the potential to do massive numbers.
But if there’s one player we most want to see Lindholm line up with, it’s the other Elias.
In many ways, Pettersson and Lindholm are similar players. They’re both potent, defensively-sound Swedish centers named Elias that were picked at fifth overall in the NHL Entry Draft. They’re both surprisingly physical. They’re both equally comfortable making passes or ripping shots.
If there was one forward the Canucks would have most wanted to clone, it was Pettersson. In acquiring Lindholm, they’ve come about as close as possible. And the Canucks have had a lot of success in the past with their pairings of similar Swedes.
Put Pettersson and Lindholm together, and they can rotate center duties. Pair them with Mikheyev or Suter, and you’ve got yourself a line that can matchup with anyone in the NHL. Or throw Höglander on their wing, and watch an all-Tre Kroner offensive extravaganza erupt.
The point to be made here is that Lindholm doesn’t just give the Canucks options up front, he gives them a bushelful of truly exciting options up front. There’s no combination possible here that doesn’t look miles better than what the Canucks had prior to this trade.
Imagine, if you will, being able to counter the McDavid-Draisaitl duo with any, or even ALL, of Pettersson, Miller, and Lindholm in a center rotation. Feel the hype settle into your bones as you realize that the Canucks are now perfectly set up to counter all those deep, deep forward corps lurking around the top of the Western standings.
Flexibility is king in the fast-moving, fast-changing world of the NHL. And while it’s a little outside the scope of this article, we’d be remiss if we didn’t quickly mention the financial flexibility, too. The Canucks actually gained $650,000 in cap space within the 2023/24 via this deal, and until they extend Lindholm, they’ve opened up a full $5.5 million for the 2024 offseason.
That takes enormous pressure off negotiations for Pettersson, Filip Hronek, and others. For the Canucks to have improved their current roster and their long-term budget in one trade is truly astonishing stuff.
Like we said at the outset, the fans are right to be as hyped as they can get on this one.
Think of it this way: Lindholm was at the top of so many charts heading into the 2024 Trade Deadline, and now he’s the sole property of the Vancouver Canucks.
He was probably the top forward available, period, with Jake Guentzel’s status currently undecided.
Either way, Lindholm was clearly the top center available, and by a longshot at that. Second and third place probably go to Sean Monahan and Adam Henrique, two clearly lesser players.
Lindholm was the top defensive forward available, and the only Selke nominee. He was probably the best faceoff-taker available, with his 55.5% this year and 53.3% career average.
At a crisp $4.85 million cap hit, he was definitely the top bang-for-buck rental on the market.
And, based on all that we’ve said thus far, we have to believe that Lindholm was the top fit for the Canucks’ own specific needs on the market. And they got him.
Which means that nobody else gets him.
Earlier this week, we sized up the Canucks’ competition as buyers at the deadline, and found at least five other major contenders that we believed were looking to add a top-six center.
Those teams, and everyone else, will have to settle for much less than Lindholm.
Appropriately enough, then, the acquisition of Lindholm could be looked at as the rare off-ice two-way play. The Canucks are much better for having Lindholm in the fold, and their strongest opposition is now worse off for no longer having Lindholm on the market.
That’s quite a swing in fortune for a team that already finds itself at the top of the standings and in possession of a full seven All-Stars at the All-Star break.
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