Lindholm says contract talks with Flames have cooled
One of Calgary’s most important forwards wants to remain a Flame long term.
Elias Lindholm has made that much clear over the past eight days as he enters the final season of a six-year, $29.1 million deal he signed back in 2018.
The veteran centre spoke again about his contractual status on the opening day of training camp Thursday, repeating the message from last week’s team golf tournament that he hopes to be playing at the Saddledome for the next several years.
Lindholm also revealed that talks with the team have cooled in recent weeks.
“We talked early on in the summer and that was the last time we talked,” he said. “There hasn’t been much.”
Lindholm didn’t directly answer when asked if he’d allow his agent, Craig Oster, to talk with the Flames once the season began.
“It’ll be handled when there will be time for that,” he said. “For now, I’m focused on the season and trying to make the most of it and try and help this team win as many games as possible.”
Lindholm has been Calgary’s top-line centre for the past four seasons. Since the 2018-19 campaign, he leads all Flames with 139 goals, 325 points, and was an alternate captain last season. Losing Lindholm would mean Nazem Kadri becomes the team’s top centre. With fellow pivot Mikael Backlund also a pending free agent, there would be a ripple effect down the lineup.
When thinking about what a possible Lindholm extension, New York Islanders forward Bo Horvat comes to mind. The former Canucks captain signed an eight-year, $68 million contract after the team acquired him from Vancouver in January. That contract carries an average annual cap hit of $8.5 million and takes up approximately 10.3 per cent of the $83.5 million salary cap.
Lindholm, who turns 29 this season, is a year older than Horvat but has a slight edge in offensive production (career 0.69 points per game compared to Horvat’s 0.67). Lindholm is also more of a two-way forward than Horvat. He’s been a Selke candidate (in 2022, he finished second in voting behind Patrice Bergeron) and has been one of Calgary’s most relied-upon penalty killers in recent seasons.
Any extension for Lindholm would likely warrant a cap hit of at least $9 million, possibly more as the cap is expected to increase in the coming seasons.
General manager Craig Conroy has been steadfast in saying that he wants Lindholm to be a part of the Flames’ present and future.
“You would love to have ‘em signed now,” he said at the team’s golf tournament, referring to a contingent of Flames set to be free agents at the end of the 2023-24 season that includes Backlund, Noah Hanifin, Chris Tanev, Oliver Kylington, and Nikita Zadorov, “But It hasn’t worked out that way and we’re just going to keep working through it.”
Conroy has also been adamant that the team will not go through another Johnny Gaudreau-type situation, letting good players walk to free agency instead of trading them. He wants the organization to prioritize asset management.
Lindholm’s teammates certainly hope that he eventually puts pen to paper. While some were hesitant to comment publicly about his situation, blueliner MacKenzie Weegar said there were many reasons Lindholm should remain a Flame.
“Why not [stay]?” Weegar said. “It’s a great city. We’ve got a great team here, great fans. You’ve got it all here. The business side is the business side of things. That’s just all professional sports, but obviously here and there, you want to whisper in their ear, ‘Please stay.’”
Lindholm and goalie Jacob Markstrom are close, and Lindholm helped convince his fellow Swede to join the Flames as a free agent in 2020. The Flames might enlist Markstrom to return the favour this time around and persuade his buddy to remain part of the organization.
“Obviously, he’s an unbelievable player, but there’s a business part and a personal part and a hockey part,” Markstrom said. “He’s here, he’s committed to be here, and he enjoys coming to the rink and he loves Calgary. But it’s up to him and the Flames, the direction. I can’t really affect it in any way, other [than] giving him a nice Swedish coffee.”