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Vancouver Canucks trade for Elias Lindholm from Calgary Flames

Just before All-Star Weekend, the Canucks and Flames made a big trade involving Elias Lindholm and Andrei Kuzmenko.
Could the Vancouver Canucks target Elias Lindholm in a trade from the Calgary Flames?

The Vancouver Canucks have made a blockbuster trade right on the eve of All-Star Weekend.

In the late afternoon, reports swarmed in from NHL insiders that the Canucks and Calgary Flames were working on a trade involving centre Elias Lindholm and winger Andrei Kuzmenko.

One complication that held up the trade is that the Flames are on Kuzmenko's 12-team no-trade list.

In order for the trade to go through, Kuzmenko would have to agree to go to Calgary. 

These discussions were in the works since Sunday according to Kuzmenko's agent, Dan Milstein. After speaking to the Flames' general manager and head coach, Kuzmenko agreed to waive his no-trade clause.

Complete trade details in the Kuzmenko, Lindholm trade

The deal wasn't one-for-one, of course, as the Canucks needed to include several other pieces to balance out the trade.

Those pieces include a first-round pick and two prospect defencemen, Hunter Brzustewicz and Joni Jurmo.

Brzustewicz was selected by the Canucks in the third round of the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. He is having a dominant post-draft season in the OHL — he leads the Kitchener Rangers with 69 points in 47 games, which leads all OHL defencemen and is good for third in OHL scoring.

While Brzustewicz is developing well, scouts question whether the habits that are getting him points in the OHL will translate to the NHL. If they do, he could be a quality top-four defenceman for the Flames; if not, then the Canucks made a savvy move trading him at the peak of his value.

Jurmo was also a third-round pick, albeit in 2020. He's a 6'5" defenceman with an intriguing skillset and he's a particularly strong skater. The issue is that his impressive set of tools has never translated particularly well on the ice.

In the Finnish Liiga this season, the 21-year-old Jurmo has four points in 35 games. It's doubtful he had much of a future in the Canucks organization but he may get another opportunity to earn an NHL contract with the Flames.

The Canucks will be hoping the 2024 first-round pick involved in the deal is a late first-round pick. That would not only mean giving a divisional rival a lower pick but also that they went on a long playoff run with Lindholm in the lineup.

The conditional fourth-round pick in the 2024 NHL Entry Draft depends on where the Canucks finish in the postseason. If the Canucks make it to the Western Conference Finals, that pick becomes a third-round pick.

Lindholm could be a major difference-maker for the Canucks

Lindholm broke out with the Flames as the pivot for Jonny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk, tallying a career-high 42 goals and 82 points in the 2021-22 season.

His game took a step back, however, in the absence of those two stars and then again this season after losing linemate Tyler Toffoli. He currently has just 9 goals and 32 points in 49 games while playing first-line minutes for the Flames.

In Vancouver, however, Lindholm should get an immediate upgrade in terms of linemates.

Lindholm is a strong two-way centre who could anchor the second line behind the Lotto Line if head coach Rick Tocchet keeps the Lotto Line together. Alternately, Lindholm has plenty of experience playing on the wing in his NHL career and could be a fit alongside Elias Pettersson if Tocchet prefers to break up the Lotto Line for better scoring depth.

That latter option might be the most appealing for the Canucks, as Lindholm and Pettersson could be a potent combination, forming a forward pairing to go with J.T. Miller and Brock Boeser in the top-six that would allow head coach Rick Tocchet to rotate other wingers on those two lines.

The strong defensive games of Lindholm and Pettersson could potentially allow them to be used in a match-up role, something that was not a possibility when Pettersson was playing with Kuzmenko.

The trade also means the Canucks will be represented by six All-Stars in Toronto, as Lindholm was the Flames' representative. 

Kuzmenko couldn't find a fit in Tocchet's system

Kuzmenko has struggled this season after piling up 39 goals last season, his first in the NHL. He's found it hard to find a fit in Tocchet's system and has just 8 goals in 43 games despite playing with Pettersson and on the first power play unit for most of the season.

His struggles to adapt his east-west style to Tocchet's north-south expectations resulted in him frequently being benched or even scratched by the Canucks' coach.

“First of all, I want to thank Kuzy for all that he did for the Vancouver Canucks. Andrei worked hard at improving his game and trying to adjust to life as a pro in North America,” said Allvin in a statement from the Canucks. “In acquiring Elias Lindholm we feel that he vastly improves our hockey team. He is a proven front line performer and will give head coach Rick Tocchet some more options when putting together our top two lines.”

Kuzmenko has a $5.5 million cap hit and is signed for an additional season. Lindholm, on the other hand, has a $4.85 million cap hit and is a pending unrestricted free agent. With neither team retaining salary, the trade clears a significant amount of cap space for the Canucks next season, which is important considering the Canucks will need to re-sign Elias Petersson and Filip Hronek.

The trade also clears a little bit of cap space this season, which might help facilitate future trades for the Canucks.

More trades to come for the Canucks?

Apparently, the Lindholm deal might not even be the only trade between the Canucks and Flames. According to TSN's Darren Dreger, as well as other reports, a potential trade for former Canuck Chris Tanev is also brewing, with it at one point discussed as part of the Lindholm trade.

If a Tanev trade does happen, however, it might not come until after the All-Star Game.