Lindholm Should Be Top Extension Priority for New Flames GM
The next Calgary Flames GM will have plenty to do.
There have been plenty of names tossed around recently, with the Flames inching closer to making a decision. The NHL Entry Draft is just around the corner. So, too, is July 1. This marks the start of free agency, but also internal signing season. And that’s where much of the offseason drama lies with a Calgary Flames team that’s dealing with an identity crisis four decades long.
Mikael Backlund could be a key signing, and probably should be the next Calgary Flames captain. But it says here that countryman Elias Lindholm is actually the franchise’s most important extension.
If he’s willing to sign, of course.
The belief is Lindholm was one of many Flames players to suggest they had no interest in playing for former head coach Darryl Sutter, which would have impacted the team’s ability to sign the 28-year-old centre this summer. The Sutter firing should — in theory — help at least open the lines of communication that seemed fairly choked after the season ended.
“We’ll see what happens,” Lindholm told the media a month ago when asked if he was interested in an extension come July 1. “I’ve got one more year, and that’s all I can say.”
That was about it. Not even the usual cliches about it being a great city or fan base.
Well, what happened so far was the Flames fired Sutter.
Next, the franchise needs to do whatever is needed to ensure its top centre sticks around.
Like Backlund, Lindholm doesn’t get a ton of attention, largely because the work he does is so subtly brilliant. Despite a dip of 20 fewer goals and 18 less points this season — following career highs in both categories the previous year — Lindholm was a critical piece of the Flames offence and helping flanker Tyler Toffoli to a career year.
Lindholm finished second with 64 points, behind only Toffoli, and Lindholm was third in goals with 22. Newcomer Nazem Kadri beat him out by a pair.
But it’s the balance Lindholm brings as one of the NHL’s best two-way centres that makes him so valuable. Not unlike Backlund — but with more offensive upside — Lindholm can be trusted against any opponent and play in any situation.
The primary reason he’s more important to sign than Backlund, at least in the early going, is salary and age. Lindholm has yet to hit 30, and his value will be high across the league, whereas Backlund’s may be highest with the Flames themselves.
That’s not to say Backlund wouldn’t be desired elsewhere. Plenty of savvy teams would be interested if he were to hit the open market, or made available by trade, but it was Lindholm who had opponents salivating at this year’s NHL trade deadline when there was talk of moving some members of the 2024 UFA crop.
Extending Lindholm could mean moving others, either over the summer, or at the deadline next season. But whatever the trickle-down effect may be, it has to be top priority. You don’t find legitimate top centres outside of the draft very often. Kadri is case in point — his addition was meant for depth, and his deal is annually going to get harder to stomach for the next GM for its duration. The cost of doing business on the free agent market.
They can’t afford to let Lindholm go.
Unless they have no choice.