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Why the Vancouver Canucks should NOT trade for Flames forward Elias Lindholm

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Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Tyson Cole
4 months ago
The 2023-2024 Vancouver Canucks season has been one to remember. After finishing 22nd in the NHL standings last season, the Canucks find themselves in a tie for first overall at this point of the 2023-2024 season. It’s clear that this group of players deserves a shot at going ‘all in’ for this year’s playoff run. It’s time for GM Patrick Allvin and President of Hockey Operations Jim Rutherford to get to work!
But who’s out there?
The rumours have been swirling over the last few weeks of who the Canucks may be targeting. One thing that’s for sure is they need to address a top-six forward — ideally, a second-line centre or, at least, a player with positional flexibility. 
As mentioned here by Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman on Donnie and Dhali — The Team, players such as Elias Lindholm, Jake Guentzel, Frank Vatrano, and Adam Henrique are some of the players Friedman refers to as potential targets for the Canucks. 
All these players fit the bill of player type that the Canucks are looking to add. Guentzel is a talented winger who’s shown the ability to play beside great players; Vatrano’s having a career year and is a player that this Canucks management group has previously shown interest in; Henrique has the versatility to play centre or the wing; Lindholm as well has proven ability to play multiple positions.
But there’s one player on this list that I’m just not sold on as a smart move for the Canucks at this point.
That player is Elias Lindholm.
Firstly, let’s talk about why he would fit on the team. 

Why It DOES Makes Sense

Lindholm has ties back to this management group, as Rutherford was the General Manager of the Carolina Hurricanes, which drafted him fifth overall in the 2013 NHL draft. Although drafted as a centre, Lindholm spent the majority of his time on the wing as a Hurricane. It wasn’t until he was packaged in a trade with Noah Hanifin that sent him to the Calgary Flames that he got a more dominant run as a centreman.
In stints with the Hurricanes and Flames, Lindholm has proven he can be a valuable forward at any position, as he was a top-six winger in Carolina and a top-line centreman in Calgary. Throughout Lindholm’s career, he has been a powerplay specialist and has led Calgary in shorthanded minutes in every season he’s played with the club. Lindholm’s defensive play earned him the runner-up for the Frank J. Selke trophy in 2022-2023. This trophy is awarded to the league’s top defensive forward.
In that same 2022-2023 season, when he was one of the league’s top defensive forwards, Lindholm scored 42 goals and finished as a point-per-game player. Not to mention being sandwiched between two 100+ point scorers in Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk.
It’s important to highlight these things as they show the versatility of Lindholm. Whether you need him to play centre or wing, kill a penalty or score on the powerplay, or play on your top line — he can do it all. 
So why wouldn’t the Canucks want to add a player like this? Well, all of that was true — until this year. 

Why it DOESN’T Make Sense

By all accounts, Lindholm is having the worst statistical season of his career. Let’s take a peek.
Lindholm is averaging 0.53 goals/60 and 1.89 points/60. By far, the biggest dip in offensive production in any year with Calgary. With these numbers, he is on pace for 15 goals & 54 points for an average of 0.65 points per game — the lowest mark of his Flames career, despite averaging the most time on ice (TOI) per game of his entire career.
Let’s see how these numbers differ when you look at his 5-on-5 data and compare them to his previous Flames seasons.
Psych, they don’t differ. They are just as poor.
As you can see, these numbers are astronomically lower than what the hockey world is used to seeing out of the Swede. He averages 1.52 points/60 at 5-on-5 — which averages out to be 0.35 5-on-5 points per game.
To put these per 60 stats in perspective for you. Lindholm’s 0.36 goals/60 amounts to just four 5-on-5 goals this season. In fact, he hasn’t scored a 5-on-5 goal since December 2nd, which was, funny enough, against the Vancouver Canucks. By the time the Flames resume play after the All-Star break, that will be over two months without a goal at 5-on-5. 
Oh, well, maybe his goals are down because he’s shooting less — nope, he has the second-highest shots/60 of his tenure with the Flames. 
This can’t all be bad, though, right? Lindholm must be sacrificing something in his offensive game for his defensive game. Wrong again.
These numbers are extremely alarming. Take a look at his expected goals percentage (xG%), scoring chances for percentage (SCF%), and high-danger scoring chances for percentage (HDCF%).
All of these percentages drop dramatically. 
This shows that the gap between the stats is getting larger — and not in a good way. The expected goals for and scoring chances that Lindholm is producing are shrinking, while the expected goals against and scoring chances against while he’s on the ice are rising. 
Now, it could always be his teammates weighing him down defensively. Let’s look at where he ranks among his team in these metrics. 
Out of all Flames forwards that have played at least 170+ minutes of 5-on-5 ice time this season, Lindholm ranks second-last at best in xGF%, SCF%, and HDCF%. 
There’s clearly something different with Lindholm this season. The Flames defensively are on track to only allow seven more goals than they allowed last season, so seeing the massive decline in their top-line centre is puzzling. 
Based on hypotheticals, let’s discuss what the cost might look like if the Canucks were to acquire the Flames forward.

The Cost

Elias Lindholm is in the final year of his $4.85M contract, and despite the poor play this season, he would be looking for similar money to what Bo Horvat signed for. Horvat signed an eight-year, $8M per year deal with the New York Islanders last season. 
The Canucks are in a busy offseason. Elias Pettersson and Filip Hronek are due substantial raises. Not to mention their eight other unrestricted free agents that need an extension. So, adding Lindholm or any other top-six forward would strictly be a rental. 
Now, it’s been speculated that the cost to get Lindholm would be a similar trade package to what the Canucks received last season for Bo Horvat. A roster player, a prospect, and a first-round pick. Let’s compare Horvat’s stats at this point last season to where Lindholm is this season. 
As you can see, most of these stats are heavily skewed in Horvat’s favour — outside of both players having 23 assists. Both play the premier centre position, but Horvat had 22 goals more than Lindholm in the same amount of games played. If the asking price is still the same, it’s not worth it for the Canucks, given the difference in production between these two. 
If the Canucks were to trade for Lindholm, what would the Flames want in return?
The Canucks first-round pick is a must in any trade to acquire a top-six forward, no matter how rough their numbers may be. Given the Canucks’ trajectory this season, the pick would likely be, at worst, the 24th or higher — which most Canucks observers would not mind parting with. 
The Flames have shown interest in Canucks forward Nils Höglander. While it’s true that Höglander is outproducing Lindholm 5-on-5, it’s important to compare the level of competition each player is up against. Höglander is mostly playing in a fourth-line role against lesser competition. But still, at this point, given his age and one year remaining on his $1.1M contract, is he someone Canucks fans would want to move on from — plus attaching their first-round pick in exchange for a rental player?
Let’s not forget Friedman’s comments, “If it’s going to be Flames (and) Canucks, for a guy like Lindholm, you’re going to have to pay a little bit more.”
It should be interesting to see what the Canucks’ management group does decide to do with this year’s trade deadline on March 8th. With the play of this team this season, they deserve to bolster this roster to increase their odds of lifting Lord Stanley. 
Ultimately, would Lindholm make this team better? Absolutely. He’s shown he can be an elite player when playing with top-end talent. Could he find his game again on Pettersson’s wing? Maybe. This would make the Canucks’ top-six much more well-rounded, adding a player who can play in all areas of the ice. 
But the cost of acquiring him with what he’s producing on the ice this season, I ask you Canucks fans, is he worth it?

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