Why the delay in Elias Lindholm’s contract negotiations with the Flames?

May 3, 2022; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames center Elias Lindholm (28) during the third period against the Dallas Stars in game one of the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
May 3, 2022; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames center Elias Lindholm (28) during the third period against the Dallas Stars in game one of the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports /

With Flames training camp underway, we’re due for more media availability and therefore, quotable player, coach, and management comments for us in the C of Red to decipher. Those got started today with brief comments from Elias Lindholm and stemming conversation on one of many topics that’s been staring us in the face all summer: a potential Lindholm extension.

Lindholm, 28 (age and coincidentally, jersey number), is entering the final season in a six-year deal with the Flames that carries a $4.85M AAV (and equivalent cap hit).

Via TSN’s Salim Valji, here’s what Lindholm had to say on the topic of a prospective extension with the Calgary Flames this morning:

"“We talked early on in the summer and that was the last time we talked,” he said. “There hasn’t been much.”"

While I’ll get speculative shortly, there are some things we know with a high level of certainty: Elias Lindholm is open to extending his time in Calgary, the Flames are open to agreeing on a new contract, and Lindholm is one of five Flames regulars from last season set to become a UFA at the end of the 2023-24 season (alongside Mikael Backlund, Noah Hanifin, Nikita Zadorov, and Chris Tanev).

The general understanding to those of us outside of the negotiation room is that the Flames made an offer to Lindholm back in July that was likely a long-term (eight-year) deal for something in the neighbourhood of $8.5-9M per annum.

Now, with a short training camp kicked off and Flames pre-season games beginning on Sunday, we’re getting the sense that talks between Lindholm and Flames general manager, Craig Conroy, have cooled off, or, if we take Lindholm’s quote above literally, have ceased completely.

There are a few of ways to analyze the situation when asking why there’s a delay with Lindholm’s contract negotiations: (1) a domino needs to fall in order for decisions to be made, (2) talks have continued in the background, but they’ve primarily involved the Craigs (Conroy and Lindholm’s agent, Craig Oster), or (3) the Flames want to see how the season starts before re-negotiating with Lindholm.

Let’s take a peek at each of those three scenarios below:

1. Lindholm’s contract is no longer top priority for the Calgary Flames

Because there are so many expiring deals in the organization, we anticipated all summer that the Flames’ UFA snowball would get rolling by now, but maybe the reason no big decisions have been made on the futures of Lindholm, Backlund, Zadorov, and others is because of how complicated the puzzle truly is. If Player A signs for $X over Y years, then Player B’s available AAV may be impacted – positively or negatively.

If the Lindholm extension was Conroy’s top priority all summer, but the two parties were not able to agree on the best offer the Flames could put forward, then maybe we’re looking at a situation in which a different piece of the puzzle needs to be solved first.

What I’m speculating is that if Lindholm’s conversations with the Flames really have hit a standstill, the reason could be because Flames management now have a Mikael Backlund contract extension in their crosshairs. Unlike Lindholm, Backlund is the player recognized as the Flames’ captain within the locker room; it’s nearly unanimous among Flames fans that if Backlund had longer than a single season remaining on his deal, he’d have been handed the “C” already. If head coach, Ryan Huska, and Conroy want to stay true to their word by naming a captain before puck drop on October 11th, perhaps a Backlund extension has become the top priority in the short-term, so he can lead the club in a formal and public way without the contract question mark hanging over his head.

2. Lindholm contract talks are happening with his agent

The second scenario is a lot simpler. If Lindholm is mentioning he hasn’t spoken with the Flames since July, his agent probably has. Maybe a conclusion is closer than we think and details just need to be ironed out. Whether it’s AAV, term, or finer points – like NMCs (no-move clauses) and NTCs (no-trade clauses) – a deal between the team and the player could be like an object in your side mirror: closer than it appears.

3. Conroy and the Flames hit pause on the Lindholm contract negotiations

With a new GM, new head coach, a void where last season’s top scorer was, and a youth movement seemingly entering the Calgary Flames organization, there’s an argument to be made that delaying contract talks with Lindholm and his agent could be a deliberate move on the part of the Flames. I could see a scenario where Conroy just wants to see how the season starts before committing long-term to who would become the second-highest paid Flame in club history (behind Jonathan Huberdeau’s $10.5M AAV for eight years, which kicks in this season).

If the Flames get off to a hot start and a top line of Huberdeau, Lindholm, and newcomer Yegor Sharangovich finds chemistry, it might be a lot easier for Conroy to give Lindholm a little more than it is right now.

There’s absolutely still a good chance that a long-term deal between Elias Lindholm and the Flames gets done sometime soon. After all, players like him – two-way first-line centremen with high-end offensive talent – are very hard to come by.

Conroy: UFAs, main camp, captaincy, goaltending, prospects. dark. Next