2023 is quickly shaping up to be one of the most monumental summers on the trade market in a while, especially for the Calgary Flames. The team has a star class of players destined for unrestricted free agency in 2024, and uncertainty looms over many of their potential extensions.
They did have some clarity on the plans of defenseman Noah Hanifin, who’s not expected to re-sign and is likely destined for a trade at some point before next year’s deadline. Today, Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli comes bearing concerning news: Elias Lindholm did not accept a high-paying, long-term extension, and the Flames remain in the dark on what his future plans are, although he notes general league speculation is leaning toward Lindholm not extending.
Lindholm is solidly the team’s number-one center and was a linchpin of their success in 2021-22, helping guide them to a Pacific Division title with a career year. He maintained some strong all-around play this year despite losing both his linemates from that season, Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk, but his offense dipped to 22 goals and 64 points in 80 games after a 40-goal campaign the year before. He’s still a bona fide top-six center in his prime – someone that Calgary would love to have down the middle for the next few seasons without much center help on the way. He’s entering the final season of a bargain bin deal that pays him $4.85MM per season.
The news around Backlund is certainly the more surprising item here. Drafted in 2007, the 34-year-old is a true Flames lifer and has played in over 900 games in a Calgary jersey. He managed a career year offensively last season with 56 points in 82 games, and he remains one of the best shutdown centers in the game.
If he does end up on the move and opts not to re-sign with Calgary, Backlund has a modified no-trade clause that permits him to name 10 teams he’ll accept a trade to. He’s in the final season of a contract paying him $5.35MM per year.
While it’s not the direction the franchise envisioned after locking up Jonathan Huberdeau, MacKenzie Weegar, and Nazem Kadri last season, they’re under new management with Craig Conroy at the helm of the front office. He’s got a unique opportunity here to jumpstart a rebuild in a massive way, as he should be able to garner multiple first-round picks and high-end prospects if Backlund, Hanifin, and Lindholm all end up on the trade market.
One thing’s for sure – the only any of these players could avoid a trade is by signing an extension. After losing Gaudreau for nothing to the open market last season, Calgary won’t be willing to take that same risk with any of their 2024 unrestricted free agents.