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  • The Wild Should Be Lurking In the Weeds For Elias Lindholm

    Image courtesy of © Sergei Belski - USA TODAY Sports
    Justin Wiggins


    Any competent poker player will tell you it’s probably best to not allow your opponent to know what cards you’re holding. Even keeled is the name of the game. Deception is your friend, while surrendering any helpful information to your adversaries can doom you in a hurry.

    They must not play much poker in Calgary, because their newly anointed general manager has laid his cards out for all to see before we've even seen the flop. And one of those cards should be of particular interest to the Minnesota Wild between now and this upcoming season’s trade deadline.

    Elias Lindholm, the Calgary Flames’ 28-year-old center, is entering the final year of his contract. And players entering the final year of their contract in Calgary provide the fan base and front office with a little more angst than most other markets. It’s hard not to blame them, as just a year ago the sudden departure of Johnny Gaudreau in free agency and subsequent trade of superstar Matthew Tkachuk rocked the foundations of the franchise.

    New GM Craig Conroy was there to witness it all as the Assistant GM last Summer. After being hired this offseason, Conroy was immediately asked how losing Gaudreau for nothing would impact his decision on whether to allow some of his current pending UFA’s to play out the final year of their contracts without extensions. In particular Lindholm, who has anchored their top line for half a decade and recorded 82 points a year ago.

    “As far as Johnny leaving, it was a learning thing for me," he said. "I was hoping Johnny was going to come back, I thought Johnny was going to come back, but I don’t think I would let that happen again.

    “Then you think, ‘Uh-oh, you just lost an asset, one of your best players of all time and you didn’t get anything for him.’ That was a real eye-opener for me.”

    Conroy is holding a few aces and has all but declared them sold for whatever he can get if not re-signed this season. Not exactly the negotiating position you want your new GM putting himself in. And Bill Guerin should be monitoring Lindholm’s contract situation very, very closely as a result.

    Why? Because Lindholm is a center. A really good one at that. And the Wild once again find themselves lacking any sort of threat down the middle as they enter this season, and quite frankly, beyond. Because while the likes of Marco Rossi, Marat Khustnidinov, and Danila Yurov are tantalizingly close to making an impact at the NHL level, none of them are sure things.

    Lindholm is.

    Over his five seasons in Calgary, Lindholm has produced at a 0.88 points per game rate. That includes this last season without Tkachuk stapled to his line, where he still churned out 64 points in 80 games despite never gaining any chemistry with his former teammates’ replacement in Jonathan Huberdeau. His ability to drive play from the middle of the ice and finish at an elite level is tantalizing. (Oh, and did we mention he is right-handed?)

    On top of his offensive production, Lindholm has received Selke votes in four of those five seasons. Three times he received top-10 votes and another time was a finalist. And while the Selke voting process remains somewhat unreliable, there is no doubting his claim as a top two-way impact at the most important skater position on the ice.

    His ability to play a multitude of styles also lends to Lindholm being somewhat of a “safe” trade. While we all clamored for the Wild to swing for the fences for Jack Eichel, Lindolm provides a higher floor and lower asset requirements than Eichel did at the time of his trade. While he may not provide the superstar impact Eichel has in Las Vegas, there is little doubt Lindholm wouldn’t gel with one of Kirill Kaprizov or Matt Boldy. Such a marriage would finally give the Wild a true top-6 center to play with one of their young, dynamic wingers.

    And here lies the true need for such a trade. While the Wild are indeed handicapped by the Zach Parise and Ryan Suter buyouts the next two years, Kaprizov’s contract only spans one year beyond those cap constraints coming off the books. Sitting pat and hoping that one or more of their center prospects hits is risky business if their goal is to convince their Russian star to sign a long-term extension and keep that Stanley Cup contention window open as long as possible.

    Furthermore, the ceiling of their top center prospect, Rossi, probably resides somewhere in an average season for a center such as Lindholm: scoring 60 points while being reliable in his own zone. Not to mention, Lindholm has shown himself to be an elite center with talent on his wing in Tkachuk. It’s not a stretch to imagine the former first round pick returning to his point-per-game production alongside a skilled winger such as Kaprizov.

    Trading from their plethora of top prospects for a surefire top center should be a no-brainer for the Wild at this stage of their development into a true contender.

    As for the financials, Lindholm would be due a large extension next summer, but it’s a contract the Wild could absorb. This year would be tricky, but Calgary plans to hold on to their Swedish center into the season with the hopes of signing an extension. However, as the potential for an extension lags on, the more cap space the Wild accrues. As each day passes, the trade becomes increasingly more possible for Minnesota. So it's possible.

    With Conroy’s announcement that he will trade Lindholm if they can’t agree to a new deal, the timing couldn’t be better for the Wild to acquire a No. 1 center at a potential bargain. They simply can’t afford to keep missing out on every potential top center to hit the trade market.

    At some point, they will need to shove their chips to the middle of the table. And there’s no better time to do so when you know the cards the other guy is holding.


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    To me, this is a classic case of a good (not great) player who's about to get an awful contract. Not better than JEEK, IMO, which should be the bar to clear when looking for outside help. It's going to cost a bunch in assets, then term, then cap hit for a guy who turns 29 in December. A triple whammy.

    If the Wild's system can't produce an Elias Lindholm-type guy, they've got bigger problems than Elias Lindholm is gonna solve.

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    42 minutes ago, Tony Abbott said:

    To me, this is a classic case of a good (not great) player who's about to get an awful contract. Not better than JEEK, IMO, which should be the bar to clear when looking for outside help. It's going to cost a bunch in assets, then term, then cap hit for a guy who turns 29 in December. A triple whammy.

    If the Wild's system can't produce an Elias Lindholm-type guy, they've got bigger problems than Elias Lindholm is gonna solve.

    Tony, I have to agree with all of that! If I'm going to trade assets its gonna be for a younger Swede we have all discussed this past week.

    We just need to push past these next six months for a clearer picture.

    I'm all about Swedesota, but not at 30 sumtin! 

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    It all depends on the price. 

    I agree the Wild need to consider this chance and their situation now, versus looking for a guy next Summer when money is available or the year after. By then Lindholm would be the reason you wouldn't get somebody else at center. So there's some gamble no matter what. An expensive guy has to produce cause if not, they can't be traded very easily. Rask was a great example of a player who once acquired, became an anchor for 4M that just didn't make sense on any roster. I think Lindholm is a different type of player from Ek albeit similar production. Could be a good fit. Timing is kinda crummy. I don't think Lindholm would be like a Rask but the risk is there with an aging player. Personally, I think Hartman is a much cheaper, proven guy. Lindholm would be a better fit if on a Hartman or Ek contract. If he's gonna be >6M or something, I think the Wild could just wait. It's not like MN is desperate. It's Calgary who has the problem. Only if Guerin can leverage that would I wanna see the Wild get Lindholm.

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    I would think that both Pettersson and Lindholm would be great additions to this club. Pettersson is more expensive and younger, but, both teams are looking at similar return from the Wild, perhaps even the same prospects.

    Could it be that the bidding war is for the Wild prospects and not for the Wild to compete for the players? That would be an ironic opportunity. Wouldn't it be interesting if the chief prospect chip is coveted by both teams? 

    I believe a Lindholm type player probably is good enough to fill our need. I could see this team's identity being good scoring with good defense. Lindholm probably provides that defense a little better. For me, I see Lindholm as a better distributor than Ek, but neither one is flashy. Flashy comes from our wings. 

    As for compensation, we would need to be able to pay either player in '24. Just from the eye test, I would assume, without looking at stats, I would expect Lindholm to be a little larger, tougher to knock off the puck and better in the dot. Having the RHS option for big faceoffs, I think, would be a good thing for this team. Lindholm makes the easy play offensively, the safe play. Pettersson would be more creative, flashier and more of a highlight reel. Which one would be a better fit for the team now, and in the future?

    If Lindholm truly costs less to obtain, I'm thinking that may be the direction to go in. From a size perspective, Lindholm has Pettersson by about 25 lbs. even though Pettersson is an inch taller. Lindholm also has Pettersson by 11 points in the dot. Both can score. Both can assist. Both play all situations. Pettersson is clearly more explosive, but, I think Lindholm is more active in his own end. Lindholm has a better handle on the +/-(flawed system admitted), but Pettersson is 4 years younger. Neither has a ring, but I'd have to believe that Lindholm has done more winning.

    I can see Lindholm in the $8.5m extension area and Pettersson in the $10.5m extension area. I also believe that Lindholm will keep up his production well into his 30s, but that is more of a risk than Pettersson. It's also interesting to note that both GMs are younger in the job than Shooter. Shooter doesn't try to fleece other teams. Brackett will likely be pounding the table for Pettersson. And I think both teams can benefit from our deep prospect pool. Does giving up less (likely Rossi is involved in both) for Lindholm actually make our roster better? That is the question! Lindholm also gives a high character veteran leader in the locker room that we may lose in Foligno, Hartman, Goligoski, and Zuccarello.

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    I have watched Ek get better after each summer break.  He is already close to being a #1C.  If he has another solid off season and ups his game at all...IMHO: we will have a 1C on the roster and I will advocate on his behalf that he deserves that accolade.  It could also allow GMBG some flexibility on finding a 2C rather than a 1C....perhaps in the 23 to 26 age range rather than 30.

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