Thursday, December 7 2023

As their roster stands now, the Boston Bruins are ill-equipped to replace Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci — whenever their eventual departures come.

Unfortunately for the Bruins, that time could come this summer. Neither Bergeron nor Krejci have officially announced their plans for next season. But considering both of them are 37 years old, it’s (past) time for the Bruins to figure out a suitable long-term plan at center.

There are no internal candidates — prospects or NHL players — ready to replace Bergeron as the No. 1 center. Of course, he’d be an enormously tough player for anyone to replace given what he means for the franchise, the fact that he’s the best defensive forward in league history, and his consistent offensive production (10 straight 20-goal seasons).

It’s not a great situation for the Bruins, who have had at least a decade to draft and develop centers who could one day take over for Bergeron and Krejci.

It can all change with one phone call, though, and there’s one specific player who would be an excellent fit in Boston: Elias Lindholm.

The Calgary Flames could be headed for a bit of a rebuild/retool this offseason. Top-six winger Tyler Toffoli reportedly doesn’t plan on re-signing. Top-four defenseman Noah Hanifin reportedly could be on the move, too. Lindholm reportedly hasn’t told the Flames what he wants yet. He has one more year left on his contract with a team-friendly $4.85 million salary cap hit, and then he’s able to hit unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2024.

Let’s run down why the Bruins should make a strong play for Lindholm.


First, he is a legit No. 1 center in the prime of his career at 29 years old. His age fits the timeline of several other important Bruins players, including David Pastrnak (27), Charlie McAvoy (26) and Pavel Zacha (26), among others.

Lindholm has been a consistent scorer for much of his career. He has scored 20-plus goals in four of the last five seasons. The one year during that span when he didn’t hit 20 was the COVID-shortened 2020-21 campaign when he tallied 19 goals in 56 games (a 27-goal pace in 82 games). He has averaged 65 points per season over the last five years. He has posted 40-plus assists in back-to-back seasons for the first time in his career. He’s one year removed from a career-high 82 points (42 goals, 40 assists) in 2021-22.

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The veteran center is a strong defensive player, too. He finished second to Bergeron in Selke Trophy voting in 2022. He has taken the 13th-most faceoffs since 2018-19 with an impressive 53.9 win percentage. He’s also driven puck possession at a high level, evidenced by the fact that the Flames have accounted for 55.27 percent of all shot attempts, 55.34 percent of all shots on net, 56 percent of all scoring chances and 60 percent of all goals scored whenever Lindholm has been on the ice during 5-on-5 action the last three seasons.


Lindholm is durable, too. He has missed only two games over the last three years. He has missed two or fewer games in seven of his last nine seasons.

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We’ve explained why he’s a good on-ice fit. What about his next contract?

All the reporting, including that from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, indicates Lindholm will want a contract similar to what top-six center Bo Horvat signed with the New York Islanders in February, which was eight years and $68 million ($8.5 million salary cap hit).

“We know what (the Flames are) going to have to offer him,” Friedman said during last Friday’s episode of the “32 Thoughts” podcast. “We’ve talked about it ad nauseum. Bo Horvat money. And he wants to know that they’re going to be in a situation where they can win.”


A Horvat type of contract would be tough for the Bruins to fit into their salary cap structure this season. But Lindholm’s next deal won’t start until the 2024-25 campaign because, as noted above, he still has one more year at $4.5 million left on his current contract. The cap is supposed to be a pretty good amount higher for the 2024-25 season, so a large contract for Lindholm should be able to fit in. The Bruins are projected to have $29 million in cap space in the summer of 2024, per CapFriendly.

What would the Bruins have to give up for Lindholm? As of this writing, there haven’t been any reports on an asking price. That’s probably because he could still re-sign in Calgary. But if he was ever to be moved, the price wouldn’t be cheap: perhaps a first-round pick, a top prospect and an NHL roster player. If Hanifin departs Calgary this summer, the Flames would need blue line depth, and the Bruins have a few defenseman they could potentially offer.

The cost for Lindholm would be steep, but that’s typical for a top-six center in his prime, and the Bruins desperately need one of these players for the post-Bergeron/Krejci era. Let’s also remember these types of centers very rarely hit free agency. The best way to acquire one is by drafting and developing or getting them in a trade. The Bruins have a few promising center prospects — Matthew Poitras and Brett Harrison, for example — but neither player is anywhere close to being ready for a top-six role in the NHL. If the Bruins are serious about contending in the short term, trading for a No. 1 or No. 2 center must happen.

A center depth chart of Lindholm, Zacha, Charlie Coyle and take your pick on the fourth line (Tomas Nosek, John Beecher, etc.) would be pretty good for the Bruins.


The Bruins have a lot of tough decisions to make this summer. They are facing a significant salary cap crunch with less than $5 million in space and more than 10 of their own players eligible for unrestricted or restricted free agency. The Bruins will need to make some moves, whether it’s trades, buyouts or both, to create more cap space.

Finding a replacement for Bergeron and Krejci needs to be a priority, too. Lindholm, as a consistent, durable and productive two-way center, is the ideal target for Boston. Whether they have the ammo required to get him is another story, but general manager Don Sweeney should at least pick up the phone and give Calgary a call to find out.

Source: Yahoo Sports


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