Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images
In our latest post identifying players that could be potential acquisition targets for the Washington Capitals this off-season, we’re going to take a look at Calgary Flames forward Elias Lindholm. With the Capitals and General Manager Brian MacLellan looking to upgrading the top-six forwards this off-season, adding a player with proven production like Lindholm would be a big win.
The statistics and salary cap information used in this post are courtesy of Natural Stat Trick, Hockey Reference, CapFriendly, Dobber Sports, HockeyViz, and Evolving Hockey. If you’d like to learn more about the statistical terms used in this post, please check out our NHL Analytics Glossary.
Lindholm is a center with wing flexibility that has played on the top line for the Calgary Flames, alongside Tyler Toffoli and Dillon Dube for the majority of his even-strength deployments. Lindholm would be an ideal first/second line center for the Capitals, especially in the scenario where the Capitals trade Evgeny Kuznetsov this off-season.
If the Capitals don’t trade Kuznetsov, Lindholm can play on the right wing as a right-handed shot. As we’ve mentioned in the past, finishing has been an issue for the Capitals, especially on the right side of the ice.
Lindholm is a 28-year-old forward and a former fifth overall pick by the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. In 80 games played this season, he notched 22 goals and 42 assists for 64 points. In his career, he’s posted 203 goals and 310 assists for 513 points in 743 games played.
Lindholm was acquired by the Calgary Flames in June of 2018 in the blockbuster trade with the Carolina Hurricanes, where Lindholm and Noah Hanifin were sent to Calgary in exchange for Micheal Ferland, Dougie Hamilton, and Adam Fox.
Lindholm is on the final year of a 6-year contract that carries a $4.85M cap hit, making Lindholm’s cap hit one of the more attractive options on the trade market.
Five-on-five on-ice performance
Here’s Lindholm’s performance in possession metrics during five-on-five play this past season:
All in all, these are really solid possession metrics. When looking a bit deeper behind his performance this season regarding these possession metrics, it appears that Lindholm is more effective in generating shot attempts than suppressing them, but we’ll get to that specific piece a bit later.
The interesting part is that his goals for percentage (GF%) trails a bit behind his expected goals for percentage (xGF%). In the past, we could attribute this to a lack of finishing ability, but it appears that his xGF% might be a bit inflated due to the volume of shot attempts generated when Lindholm was on the ice.
Here’s another look at that data, specifically looking at Lindholm’s scoring chance for percentage (SCF%), high-danger chances for percentage (HDCF%), and high-danger goals for percentage (HDGF%):
I mentioned that Lindholm’s xGF% might be a bit inflated due to the excess in shot attempts generated when Lindholm was on the ice, and that appears to definitely be the case here. The rationale is that Lindholm’s HDGF% outpaces his HDCF%, so we’re likely not looking at a scenario where the Flames were generating a ton of high-quality chances and not converting on those, which would indicate finishing issues.
Here’s another point of evidence here, using HockeyViz’s isolated impact chart:
The Flames in general were effective in generating expected goals for per sixty (xGF/60), and they were only marginally worse when Lindholm was on the ice. This isn’t a huge shock considering Lindholm was their first line center, so they’re going to get the tougher match-ups with their opponents’ top defensive forwards and pairings.
The concern is really defensively, where the Flames allowed 6% more expected goals against per sixty (xGA/60) during even-strength when Lindholm was on the ice. On the other hand, the Flames were rather elite when it comes to xGA as a team, placing fourth in the NHL in that regard.
This is all to say that Lindholm is rather decent defensively, although this past season didn’t really show through during even-strength situations. You can see a bit of that defensive acumen showing through in his isolated impact while on the penalty kill, though.
Rate Adjusted Plus-Minus
Rate-Adjusted Plus-Minus (RAPM) is an efficient way to measure a player’s performance in relation to the league, and in relation to replacement level. Here’s Lindholm’s RAPM chart from Evolving Hockey:
This basically reflects the point that Lindholm had slight struggles defensively during even-strength, but was still effective, offensively. Additionally, Lindholm had success in generating high quality opportunities on the Flames’ power play, but the GF/60 is trailing behind his xGF/60 marks.
Lindholm’s cap hit of $4.85M makes him an attractive candidate to slot into a top-six role for the Capitals, who are currently tight on cap space (sitting at $6,524,167 in cap space if the cap goes up to $83.5M).
There’s a double-edged sword that comes with Lindholm’s contract, and that’s because his contract expires after the 2023-24 season. The benefit is that it should cost a bit less to acquire him with only a year left on his contract than if he had term remaining.
Additionally, the Caps would have a bit of flexibility and risk management in terms of cost during the 2023-24 season, because they wouldn’t have to lock him into a long term deal if he were a free agent this off-season.
The downside here is that if Lindholm performs really well in Washington, his price for a new contract is going to rise considerably. On top of that, if the Caps were to acquire him and be outside of the playoff picture come next February, the Capitals could flip him to a contender for more draft capital. My assumption would be that if the Caps aren’t in the playoff hunt next season, we’re probably going to see a rebuild follow, and potentially new leadership in the front office.
Does this make sense for the Caps?
If MacLellan stays true to his comments about improving the Capitals top-six forwards, the conversation has to start with Lindholm. While the package to acquire a player of his stature wouldn’t come cheap, the value could be increased by agreeing to an extension with him right away. He’s eligible for a contract extension on July 1st this year, so if there’s a lack of news about him extending in Calgary, expect suitors to come calling.
The Flames are entering a new regime in the front office, and their cap situation isn’t exactly stellar. Lindholm’s asking price might outreach what the Flames can afford, and that means that there’s a fairly decent chance Lindholm is on the move this off-season.
I would expect that MacLellan inquires about his availability, and it’s likely going to cost in the neighborhood of what it cost the New York Islanders to acquire Bo Horvat from the Vancover Canucks. That trade cost the Islanders forward Anthony Beauvillier, a solid prospect in Aatu Raty, and a 2023 1st round pick.
We’ll have to see just how aggressive MacLellan is with the Caps’ future draft capital, as I’d expect the 8th overall pick would be off the table for anyone not named Alex DeBrincat.
By Justin Trudel
Capitals Potential Player Acquisition Target: Vladislav Gavrikov
Capitals Potential Player Acquisition Target: Michael Bunting
Capitals Potential Player Acquisition Target: Nick Schmaltz
Capitals Potential Player Acquisition Target: Brock Boeser
Capitals Potential Player Acquisition Target: Ryan Graves
Capitals Potential Player Acquisition Target: Viktor Arvidsson