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Elias Lindholm trade grades: Canucks earn a ‘B+’ despite hefty price tag

The Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames agreed to a massive trade on Wednesday that was headlined by center Elias Lindholm. In the deal, the Canucks acquired Lindholm from the Flames in exchange for winger Andrei Kuzmenko, defenseman Hunter Brzustewicz, defenseman Joni Jurmo, a 2024 first-round pick and a conditional 2024 fourth-round pick.

Lindholm is slated to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

When it comes to the Canucks, this is a team that clearly has Stanley Cup aspirations with a move like this for a rental. Meanwhile, the Flames are acquiring young talent in exchange for a player who was likely leaving via free agency anyway. With the trade having some time to marinate, we’ve taken a closer look at the deal and offered a verdict on both sides of it.

Now, let’s get to it.

Canucks grade: B+

The Canucks were the first team to make a splash with the NHL trade deadline being a little over a month away. Lindholm comes to the Canucks after registering 32 points (nine goals & 23 assists) in 49 games for the Flames before the trade. Ironically enough, the deal took place heading into All-Star weekend, where Lindholm was slated to represent Calgary.

On the surface, the Canucks acquire one of the game’s top two-way centers in Lindholm. Lindholm gives the Canucks a right-handed center that is also capable of playing on the wing if necessary. The 29-year-old is also more than capable of being a Selke Trophy contender as he’s one of the more talented defensive forwards in the league. On the other hand, the veteran center also can help anchor Vancouver’s power-play unit as evident in the fact that he’s registered three power-play goals and six power-play assists thus far this season.

With J.T. Miller anchoring Vancouver’s line, Lindholm will likely center the Canucks’ second line alongside Elias Pettersson. Pettersson is already having a career year and that could get even better playing alongside a playmaker like Lindholm, who was leading the Flames in assists (23) before the trade.

From the Canucks standpoint, it was obviously a lofty price tag to give up for a potential rental. Lindholm could elect to test the free agency waters this summer, and the Canucks could lose him. On the other hand, the franchise has the rest of the season to fit Lindholm into their lineup, and the veteran forward could elect to re-sign if it’s a match made in heaven. Even if this was a move just for the 2023-24 season, it was worth the risk with the Canucks having already positioned themselves as one of the top Stanley Cup contenders.

Flames grade: A-

On the other side of the coin, this deal also makes a ton of sense for the Flames. The Flames were likely going to lose Lindholm in free agency this summer since the two sides reportedly weren’t anywhere close to agreeing on a contract extension. With this deal, the Flames get value back in exchange for a player that they were probably going to see walk out the door anyway. Calgary may be a little more cautious after how the Johnny Gaudreau situation played out. It appeared that Gaudreau might re-sign then had a last-minute change of heart, and ultimately signed with the Columbus Blue Jackets on the open market.

It’s hard to argue with the haul that the Flames ended up getting in return for Lindholm. Winger Andrei Kuzmenko is the likely centerpiece of the deal and gives the Flames a scoring option that they can place right into their lineup. Kuzmenko is coming off of a season in which he tallied 74 points (39 goals & 35 assists) in 2022-23 in his first season with the Canucks. The Russian forward is an above-average skater that has a nose for the goal. Kuzmenko thrives when he’s found the net and always can pounce on loose pucks. He will be a free agent following the 2024-25 season, so the Flames will have time to either move Kuzmenko or sign him to an extension before the end of next season.

A good chunk of this deal will hinge on what the prospects that the Flames received end up doing once they reach the NHL level. This portion of the trade is highlighted by defenseman Hunter Brzustewicz. Brzustewicz, a third-round pick in 2023, is just 19 years old but is already tearing up the Ontario Hockey League. The young defenseman currently has 69 points (eight goals & 61 assists) for the Kitchener Rangers. Brzustewicz also currently leads the OHL in assists, while ranking third in the league in points. The 19-year-old has a very high hockey IQ and can really thread the needle to his teammates.

The Flames also landed another defensive prospect in Joni Jurmo in the deal. Jurmo’s accolades might not be quite as polarizing as Brzustewicz’s, but this is another solid blue-line prospect for Calgary to have in the fold. He was a third-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, and is currently playing for KooKoo in Liiga in Finland. Jurmo tallied 13 points (five goals & eight assists) during the 2022-23 season while playing for Jukurit. The Finnish prospect is a very talented skater who moves very well with the puck. 

Landing a first-round pick in the trade is also another added bonus. Even if Kuzmenko doesn’t end up fitting into the franchise’s long-term plans, the Flames received a potential star defenseman in Brzustewicz on top of some solid draft capital.

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