As rumors swirl about the “core four” in Toronto, another Canadian NHL team is going to through a potentially similar situation to the one they faced last offseason when they felt forced to trade a top-tier player to avoid losing them for nothing. The Calgary Flames are facing a possible dilemma with Elias Lindholm, a star forward who was rumored to be unhappy under Darryl Sutter, and who has one season remaining on his contract. He might be looking to move on with the franchise undergoing significant changes.
If new GM Flames Craig Conroy feels obligated to trade Lindholm — assuming the two sides can’t get back on the same page and move forward with an extension — who might Calgary target as likely trade suitors? Julian McKenzie noted in a recent article for The Athletic that the Flames could seek a first-round pick, but aren’t likely to get a top-10 selection. He writes, “None of those teams in that range are a trade away from being a contender and I think they’d much rather have the younger, talented player on an entry-level deal instead of a center much closer to their ceiling.”
McKenzie then adds:
I think the Flames would be more likely to get that first-rounder from any contending team below them. Think of teams like Colorado, Toronto and Minnesota as examples.
source – ‘Could the Flames trade Elias Lindholm for a 2023 first-round pick? Mailbag’ – Julian McKenize – The Athletic – 05/24/2023
Would the Maple Leafs Be In the Market For Someone like Lindholm?
Suggesting first that most contending teams would see the value in a player like Lindholm being added to the roster, Toronto does have the first-round pick that McKenzie is talking about. The Washington Capitals acquired Rasmus Sandin from the Maple Leafs for Erik Gustafsson and a 2023 1st-round pick. With that pick, the Leafs are slated to select at No. 28 after the Bruins were ousted by the Florida Panthers.
If the team could make Lindholm’s cap hit of $4.85 million work, it seems likely they’d be open to moving that pick to add a player of his quality.
Alternatively, the aforementioned speculation about the Leafs’ “core four” suggests there’s a potential here for a blockbuster. Would the Maple Leafs be open to moving someone like Mitch Marner or William Nylander in a deal for Lindholm? The cap savings would be immediate and the need to sign a top star doesn’t change as both Nylander and Marner are coming up to the end of their contracts like Lindholm is (Marner has one additional season).
As one of my fellow THW contributors put it, “Marner/ Nylander and first for Lindholm + is how I see it. Maybe Andersson as well.”
Would the Flames Dare Make a Titantic-Like Trade Again?
If the Flames feel the need to trade Lindholm, this must feel like a major case of deja vu. It wasn’t a year ago that the team moved Matthew Tkachuk for what was deemed to be an unexpectedly solid return. Landing both Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar in the deal, most believed then-GM Brad Treliving made lemonade out of lemons. As it turns out, the lemonade was pretty sour.
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Would the Flames dare do this again? If trading Lindholm doesn’t fetch the Flames a solid return, not only are we talking about the Flames potentially missing the playoffs again, but do fans start counting the days until the franchise is forced to undertake a rebuild? Moving Tkachuk and getting it wrong stung. Moving Lindholm and getting it wrong is potentially crippling for the organization. It makes sense that the Flames might look to land a can’t-miss player. It makes sense they might target one of the Leafs’ core four.
Making the narrative even more dramatic, what would happen if it was Treliving who was the one looking at this trade? Is there really a world in which the Maple Leafs hire the former GM and then Calgary deals with that GM in one of the biggest trades of the summer?
Conroy’s first order of business will be seeing where Lindholm’s head is at. If it’s not in Calgary, the new GM will likely have to explore the potential of a trade. In his first major deal as GM, he can’t afford to get something this big wrong and have the franchise sink like the Titanic. Targeting someone like William Nylander or Mitch Marner only makes sense. But, that would take Brendan Shanahan and the new GM playing ball. That’s certainly not a given.