The Calgary Flames had one lone All-Star Game representative at the start of Wednesday in Elias Lindholm. By the end of the day, they had none after trading him to the Vancouver Canucks.
Lindholm’s future with the Flames had been in question as he was slated to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. It’s why Lindholm, who has nine goals and 32 points in 49 games this season, was considered one of the most sought-after players ahead of the NHL trade deadline on March 8.
That’s also the reason the Canucks parted ways with forward Andrei Kuzmenko, a pair of prospect defensemen in Hunter Brzustewicz and Joni Jurmo, and a 2024 first-round pick and a conditional 2024 fourth-round pick to bring Lindholm to Vancouver.
Getting Lindholm accomplishes several things for the Canucks. He gives them another top-six center who is capable of creating either for himself or for his teammates, in addition to what they already have with J.T. Miller and Elias Pettersson. He’s also a legitimate scoring threat. The 29-year-old Lindholm has reached the 20-goal mark four times in his career while surpassing the 40-assist plateau on three separate occasions.
In addition, Lindholm provides the Canucks with a reliable two-way center who can be used in several defensive situations — such as their penalty kill, which entered Wednesday ranked 15th. Lindholm, who led all Flames forwards in short-handed ice time, was anchoring a penalty kill that was fourth in the NHL with an 84.4% success rate.
On the day the Canucks announced they gave general manager Patrik Allvin a contract extension, the franchise watched him execute the latest move in what has become a transformation over the past 12 months.
It was this time a year ago when the Canucks were left to answer questions about their future. They had just moved on from Bruce Boudreau, who after winning 32 of his first 57 games in charge, was fired after an 18-25-3 start, which led to them falling out of playoff contention by December.
Allvin hired former Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet, who won 20 of his 36 games in charge last season. He then traded captain Bo Horvat to the New York Islanders and received a first-round pick as part of that deal, only to send that pick to the Detroit Red Wings in a move that landed the Canucks defenseman Filip Hronek.
From there, Allvin used the following offseason and part of the regular season to revamp a defense led by captain Quinn Hughes that has become one of the stronger units in the NHL. That included a deal earlier this season between the Flames and the Canucks that brought Nikita Zadorov to Vancouver.
The result of that work saw the Canucks catapult to a 12-3-1 start and remain in the discussion as one of the NHL’s best teams while also sending five players plus Tocchet to the NHL All-Star Game in Toronto.
Now that figure rises to six All-Stars thanks to Lindholm while also raising questions about how far the Canucks can go this season and if the year ends with them reaching the Stanley Cup Final after missing the playoffs for four straight seasons.
Already faced with the prospect of finding a new contract for Pettersson, the Canucks and Allvin will do the same with Lindholm. Pettersson is a pending restricted free agent, which means the Canucks will have team control until he becomes a free agent in 2026. Lindholm, however, could walk after this season.
Moving on from Lindholm is expected to be the first in what could be a series of moves for a Flames team that’s stuck between trying to challenge for a playoff spot and facing the reality the franchise could be in store for major changes.
Lindholm was one of several pending UFAs on the Flames’ roster, which led to questions about what direction the franchise would take. Saddled with an inability to consistently find offense coupled with a crowded landscape, the Flames came into Wednesday five points out of the final Western Conference wild-card spot.
His departure also raises questions about if the Flames are about to trigger a potential exodus ahead of the trade deadline. They have seven players who are pending UFAs, with the bulk of them coming on defense as five of the seven blueliners under contract are in the final year of their deal. It’s a group that includes Noah Hanifin and Christopher Tanev, among others.
The haul the Flames received from the Canucks could be the sort of bounty to help them now and in the future. It’s possible that leaving the Canucks will help Kuzmenko find the form that made him one of the Canucks’ best players last season.
The unrestricted free agent signed with Vancouver after starring in the KHL with SKA St. Petersburg. Kuzmenko broke through to score 39 goals and rack up 74 points before the Canucks signed him to a two-year contract worth $5.5 million annually only to see the forward have just eight goals and 21 points in 43 games. He was also a healthy scratch on several occasions.
The Flames now have two first-round picks in this year’s draft while having eight picks in total. They also have two more defensemen who could help reshape their roster in the years to come.
Brzustewicz was a third-round pick in 2023 and is on pace to score 98 points with the Kitchener Rangers in the OHL. He has six goals and 69 points through 47 games after recording six goals and 57 points last season.
Jurmo, who was a third-round pick in 2020, is playing in the Liiga, the top division in Finland, where he has one goal and four points in 35 games between Ilves and KooKoo.